Mendelian randomization identifies blood metabolites previously linked to midlife cognition as causal candidates in Alzheimer’s disease

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Abstract

There are currently no disease-modifying treatments for Alzheimer's disease (AD), and an understanding of preclinical causal biomarkers to help target disease pathogenesis in the earliest phases remains elusive. Here, we investigated whether 19 metabolites previously associated with midlife cognition-a preclinical predictor of AD-translate to later clinical risk, using Mendelian randomization (MR) to tease out AD-specific causal relationships. Summary statistics from the largest genome-wide association studies (GWASs) for AD and metabolites were used to perform bidirectional univariable MR. Bayesian model averaging (BMA) was additionally performed to address high correlation between metabolites and identify metabolite combinations that may be on the AD causal pathway. Univariable MR indicated four extra-large high-density lipoproteins (XL.HDL) on the causal pathway to AD: free cholesterol (XL.HDL.FC: 95% CI = 0.78 to 0.94), total lipids (XL.HDL.L: 95% CI = 0.80 to 0.97), phospholipids (XL.HDL.PL: 95% CI = 0.81 to 0.97), and concentration of XL.HDL particles (95% CI = 0.79 to 0.96), significant at an adjusted P < 0.009. MR-BMA corroborated XL.HDL.FC to be among the top three causal metabolites, in addition to total cholesterol in XL.HDL (XL.HDL.C) and glycoprotein acetyls (GP). Both XL.HDL.C and GP demonstrated suggestive univariable evidence of causality (P < 0.05), and GP successfully replicated within an independent dataset. This study offers insight into the causal relationship between metabolites demonstrating association with midlife cognition and AD. It highlights GP in addition to several XL.HDLs-particularly XL.HDL.FC-as causal candidates warranting further investigation. As AD pathology is thought to develop decades prior to symptom onset, expanding on these findings could inform risk reduction strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2009808118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume118
Issue number16
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2021

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