APOE genotype-specific methylation patterns are linked to Alzheimer disease pathology and estrogen response

Transl Psychiatry. 2024 Feb 29;14(1):129. doi: 10.1038/s41398-024-02834-x.


The joint effects of APOE genotype and DNA methylation on Alzheimer disease (AD) risk is relatively unknown. We conducted genome-wide methylation analyses using 2,021 samples in blood (91 AD cases, 329 mild cognitive impairment, 1,391 controls) and 697 samples in brain (417 AD cases, 280 controls). We identified differentially methylated levels in AD compared to controls in an APOE genotype-specific manner at 25 cytosine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) sites in brain and 36 CpG sites in blood. Additionally, we identified seven CpG sites in the APOE region containing TOMM40, APOE, and APOC1 genes with P < 5 × 10-8 between APOE ε4 carriers and non-carriers in brain or blood. In brain, the most significant CpG site hypomethylated in ε4 carriers compared to non-carriers was from the TOMM40 in the total sample, while most of the evidence was derived from AD cases. However, the CpG site was not significantly modulating expression of these three genes in brain. Three CpG sites from the APOE were hypermethylated in APOE ε4 carriers in brain or blood compared in ε4 non-carriers and nominally significant with APOE expression in brain. Three CpG sites from the APOC1 were hypermethylated in blood, which one of the 3 CpG sites significantly lowered APOC1 expression in blood using all subjects or ε4 non-carriers. Co-methylation network analysis in blood and brain detected eight methylation networks associated with AD and APOE ε4 status. Five of the eight networks included genes containing network CpGs that were significantly enriched for estradiol perturbation, where four of the five networks were enriched for the estrogen response pathway. Our findings provide further evidence of the role of APOE genotype on methylation levels associated with AD, especially linked to estrogen response pathway.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / metabolism
  • Apolipoprotein E4 / genetics
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics
  • DNA Methylation
  • Estrogens
  • Genotype
  • Humans


  • Apolipoprotein E4
  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Estrogens
  • ApoE protein, human