Genetic Risk as a Marker of Amyloid-β and Tau Burden in Cerebrospinal Fluid

J Alzheimers Dis. 2017;55(4):1417-1427. doi: 10.3233/JAD-160707.


Background: The search for a biomarker of Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology (amyloid-β (Aβ) and tau) is ongoing, with the best markers currently being measurements of Aβ and tau in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and via positron emission tomography (PET) scanning. These methods are relatively invasive, costly, and often have high screening failure rates. Consequently, research is aiming to elucidate blood biomarkers of Aβ and tau.

Objective: This study aims to investigate a case/control polygenic risk score (PGRS) as a marker of tau and investigate blood markers of a combined Aβ and tau outcome for the first time. A sub-study also considers plasma tau as markers of Aβ and tau pathology in CSF.

Methods: We used data from the EDAR*, DESCRIPA**, and Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) cohorts in a logistic regression analysis to investigate blood markers of Aβ and tau in CSF. In particular, we investigated the extent to which a case/control PGRS is predictive of CSF tau, CSF amyloid, and a combined amyloid and tau outcome. The predictive ability of models was compared to that of age, gender, and APOE genotype ('basic model').

Results: In EDAR and DESCRIPA test data, inclusion of a case/control PGRS was no more predictive of Aβ, and a combined Aβ and tau endpoint than the basic models (accuracies of 66.0%, and 73.3% respectively). The tau model saw a small increase in accuracy compared to basic models (59.6%). ADNI 2 test data also showed a slight increase in accuracy for the Aβ model when compared to the basic models (61.4%).

Conclusion: We see some evidence that a case/control PGRS is marginally more predictive of Aβ and tau pathology than the basic models. The search for predictive factors of Aβ and tau pathologies, above and beyond demographic information, is still ongoing. Better understanding of AD risk alleles, development of more sensitive assays, and studies of larger sample size are three avenues that may provide such factors. However, the clinical utility of possible predictors of brain Aβ and tau pathologies must also be investigated.*'Beta amyloid oligomers in the early diagnosis of AD and as marker for treatment response'**'Development of screening guidelines and criteria for pre-dementia Alzheimer's disease'.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; biomarker; blood; multi-modal; polygenic risk score; tau.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics*
  • Biomarkers / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Cohort Studies
  • Databases, Factual / statistics & numerical data
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • tau Proteins / blood
  • tau Proteins / cerebrospinal fluid*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Biomarkers
  • tau Proteins