Assessment of the Genetic Architecture of Alzheimer's Disease Risk in Rate of Memory Decline

J Alzheimers Dis. 2018;62(2):745-756. doi: 10.3233/JAD-170834.


Many genetic studies for Alzheimer's disease (AD) have been focused on the identification of common genetic variants associated with AD risk and not on other aspects of the disease, such as age at onset or rate of dementia progression. There are multiple approaches to untangling the genetic architecture of these phenotypes. We hypothesized that the genetic architecture of rate of progression is different than the risk for developing AD dementia. To test this hypothesis, we used longitudinal clinical data from ADNI and the Knight-ADRC at Washington University, and we calculated PRS (polygenic risk score) based on the IGAP study to compare the genetic architecture of AD risk and dementia progression. Dementia progression was measured by the change of Clinical Dementia Rating Sum of Boxes (CDR)-SB per year. Out of the 21 loci for AD risk, no association with the rate of dementia progression was found. The PRS rate was significantly associated with the rate of dementia progression (β= 0.146, p = 0.03). In the case of rare variants, TREM2 (β= 0.309, p = 0.02) was also associated with the rate of dementia progression. TREM2 variant carriers showed a 23% faster rate of dementia compared with non-variant carriers. In conclusion, our results indicate that the recently identified common and rare variants for AD susceptibility have a limited impact on the rate of dementia progression in AD patients.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease risk; Clinical Dementia Rating sum of boxes; International Genomics of Alzheimer’s Project (IGAP); polygenic risk score; progression.

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

  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics*
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Dementia / genetics*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics*
  • Memory Disorders / genetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Receptors, Immunologic / genetics*
  • Risk Assessment


  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • TREM2 protein, human