Developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is influenced by multiple genetic variants that are involved in five major AD-pathways. Per individual, these pathways may differentially contribute to the modification of the AD-risk. The pathways involved in the resilience against AD have thus far been poorly addressed. Here, we investigated to what extent each molecular mechanism associates with (i) the increased risk of AD and (ii) the resilience against AD until extreme old age, by comparing pathway-specific polygenic risk scores (pathway-PRS). We used 29 genetic variants associated with AD to develop pathway-PRS for five major pathways involved in AD. We developed an integrative framework that allows multiple genes to associate with a variant, and multiple pathways to associate with a gene. We studied pathway-PRS in the Amsterdam Dementia Cohort of well-phenotyped AD patients (N = 1895), Dutch population controls from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (N = 1654) and our unique 100-plus Study cohort of cognitively healthy centenarians who avoided AD (N = 293). Last, we estimated the contribution of each pathway to the genetic risk of AD in the general population. All pathway-PRS significantly associated with increased AD-risk and (in the opposite direction) with resilience against AD (except for angiogenesis, p < 0.05). The pathway that contributed most to the overall modulation of AD-risk was β-amyloid metabolism (29.6%), which was driven mainly by APOE-variants. After excluding APOE variants, all pathway-PRS associated with increased AD-risk (except for angiogenesis, p < 0.05), while specifically immune response (p = 0.003) and endocytosis (p = 0.0003) associated with resilience against AD. Indeed, the variants in these latter two pathways became the main contributors to the overall modulation of genetic risk of AD (45.5% and 19.2%, respectively). The genetic variants associated with the resilience against AD indicate which pathways are involved with maintained cognitive functioning until extreme ages. Our work suggests that a favorable immune response and a maintained endocytosis pathway might be involved in general neuro-protection, which highlight the need to investigate these pathways, next to β-amyloid metabolism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number332
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number1
Early online date29 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

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