Synapse loss is an early event in late-onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD). In this study, we have assessed the capacity of a polygenic risk score (PRS) restricted to synapse-encoding loci to predict LOAD. We used summary statistics from the International Genetics of Alzheimer's Project genome-wide association meta-analysis of 74,046 patients for model construction and tested the "synaptic PRS" in 2 independent data sets of controls and pathologically confirmed LOAD. The mean synaptic PRS was 2.3-fold higher in LOAD than that in controls (p < 0.0001) with a predictive accuracy of 72% in the target data set (n = 439) and 73% in the validation data set (n = 136), a 5%-6% improvement compared with the APOE locus (p < 0.00001). The model comprises 8 variants from 4 previously identified (BIN1, PTK2B, PICALM, APOE) and 2 novel (DLG2, MINK1) LOAD loci involved in glutamate signaling (p = 0.01) or APP catabolism or tau binding (p = 0.005). As the simplest PRS model with good predictive accuracy to predict LOAD, we conclude that synapse-encoding genes are enriched for LOAD risk-modifying loci. The synaptic PRS could be used to identify individuals at risk of LOAD before symptom onset.
Keywords: Aβ; Glutamate signaling; Late-onset Alzheimer's disease; Polygenic risk score; Tau1.
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