The endocytic membrane trafficking pathway plays a major role in the risk of Parkinson's disease

Mov Disord. 2019 Apr;34(4):460-468. doi: 10.1002/mds.27614. Epub 2019 Jan 24.


Background: PD is a complex polygenic disorder. In recent years, several genes from the endocytic membrane-trafficking pathway have been suggested to contribute to disease etiology. However, a systematic analysis of pathway-specific genetic risk factors is yet to be performed.

Objectives: To comprehensively study the role of the endocytic membrane-trafficking pathway in the risk of PD.

Methods: Linkage disequilibrium score regression was used to estimate PD heritability explained by 252 genes involved in the endocytic membrane-trafficking pathway including genome-wide association studies data from 18,869 cases and 22,452 controls. We used pathway-specific single-nucleotide polymorphisms to construct a polygenic risk score reflecting the cumulative risk of common variants. To prioritize genes for follow-up functional studies, summary-data based Mendelian randomization analyses were applied to explore possible functional genomic associations with expression or methylation quantitative trait loci.

Results: The heritability estimate attributed to endocytic membrane-trafficking pathway was 3.58% (standard error = 1.17). Excluding previously nominated PD endocytic membrane-trafficking pathway genes, the missing heritability was 2.21% (standard error = 0.42). Random heritability simulations were estimated to be 1.44% (standard deviation = 0.54), indicating that the unbiased total heritability explained by the endocytic membrane-trafficking pathway was 2.14%. Polygenic risk score based on endocytic membrane-trafficking pathway showed a 1.25 times increase of PD risk per standard deviation of genetic risk. Finally, Mendelian randomization identified 11 endocytic membrane-trafficking pathway genes showing functional consequence associated to PD risk.

Conclusions: We provide compelling genetic evidence that the endocytic membrane-trafficking pathway plays a relevant role in disease etiology. Further research on this pathway is warranted given that critical effort should be made to identify potential avenues within this biological process suitable for therapeutic interventions. © 2019 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.

Keywords: Parkinson's disease; endocytosis; genetic risk; heritability; polygenic risk score.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Endocytosis / physiology*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis
  • Parkinson Disease / genetics*
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Quantitative Trait Loci
  • Risk Factors