Shared genetic risk loci between Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, Parkinson's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Alzheimers Res Ther. 2023 Jun 16;15(1):113. doi: 10.1186/s13195-023-01244-3.


Background: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have indicated moderate genetic overlap between Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related dementias (ADRD), Parkinson's disease (PD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), neurodegenerative disorders traditionally considered etiologically distinct. However, the specific genetic variants and loci underlying this overlap remain almost entirely unknown.

Methods: We leveraged state-of-the-art GWAS for ADRD, PD, and ALS. For each pair of disorders, we examined each of the GWAS hits for one disorder and tested whether they were also significant for the other disorder, applying Bonferroni correction for the number of variants tested. This approach rigorously controls the family-wise error rate for both disorders, analogously to genome-wide significance.

Results: Eleven loci with GWAS hits for one disorder were also associated with one or both of the other disorders: one with all three disorders (the MAPT/KANSL1 locus), five with ADRD and PD (near LCORL, CLU, SETD1A/KAT8, WWOX, and GRN), three with ADRD and ALS (near GPX3, HS3ST5/HDAC2/MARCKS, and TSPOAP1), and two with PD and ALS (near GAK/TMEM175 and NEK1). Two of these loci (LCORL and NEK1) were associated with an increased risk of one disorder but decreased risk of another. Colocalization analysis supported a shared causal variant between ADRD and PD at the CLU, WWOX, and LCORL loci, between ADRD and ALS at the TSPOAP1 locus, and between PD and ALS at the NEK1 and GAK/TMEM175 loci. To address the concern that ADRD is an imperfect proxy for AD and that the ADRD and PD GWAS have overlapping participants (nearly all of which are from the UK Biobank), we confirmed that all our ADRD associations had nearly identical odds ratios in an AD GWAS that excluded the UK Biobank, and all but one remained nominally significant (p < 0.05) for AD.

Conclusions: In one of the most comprehensive investigations to date of pleiotropy between neurodegenerative disorders, we identify eleven genetic risk loci shared among ADRD, PD, and ALS. These loci support lysosomal/autophagic dysfunction (GAK/TMEM175, GRN, KANSL1), neuroinflammation/immunity (TSPOAP1), oxidative stress (GPX3, KANSL1), and the DNA damage response (NEK1) as transdiagnostic processes underlying multiple neurodegenerative disorders.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Genome-wide association studies; Parkinson’s disease; Pleiotropy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / genetics
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis* / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / genetics
  • Parkinson Disease* / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics