Background: Both amyloid (Aβ) load and APOE4 allele are associated with neurodegenerative changes in Alzheimer's disease (AD) prone regions and with risk for cognitive impairment.
Objective: To evaluate the unique and independent contribution of APOE4 allele status (E4+∖E4-), Aβ status (Amy+∖Amy-), and combined APOE4 and Aβ status on regional cortical thickness (CoTh) and cognition among participants diagnosed as cognitively normal (CN, n = 251), early mild cognitive impairment (EMCI, n = 207), late mild cognitive impairment (LMCI, n = 196), and mild AD (n = 162) from the ADNI.
Methods: A series of two-way ANCOVAs with post-hoc Tukey HSD tests, controlling independently for Aβ and APOE4 status and age were examined.
Results: Among LMCI and AD participants, cortical thinning was widespread in association with Amy+ status, whereas in association with E4+ status only in the inferior temporal and medial orbito-frontal regions. Among CN and EMCI participants, E4+ status, but not Amy+ status, was independently associated with increased CoTh, especially in limbic regions [e.g., in the entorhinal cortex, CoTh was 0.123 mm greater (p = 0.002) among E4+ than E4-participants]. Among CN and EMCI, both E4+ and Amy+ status were independently associated with cognitive impairment, which was greatest among those with combined E4 + and Amy+ status.
Conclusion: Decreased CoTh is independently associated with Amy+ status in many brain regions, but with E4+ status in very restricted number of brain regions. Among CN and EMCI participants, E4 + status is associated with increased CoTh, in medial and inferior temporal regions, although cognitive impairment at this state is independently associated with Amy+ and E4 + status. These findings imply a unique pathophysiological mechanism for E4 + status in AD and its progression.
Keywords: ADNI; APOE; Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid; cortical thinning; memory; mild cognitive impairment.