Connecting dementia risk loci to the CSF proteome identifies pathophysiological leads for dementia

Lianne Reus*, Iris Jansen, Betty Tijms, Pieter Visser, Niccoló Tesi, Sven van der Lee, Lisa Vermunt, Carel Peeters, Lisa de Groot, Yanaika Hok-A-Hin, Alice Chen-Plotkin, David Irwin, William Hu, Lieke Meeter, John van Swieten, Henne Holstege, Marc Hulsman, Afina Lemstra, Yolande Pijnenburg, Wiesje van der FlierCharlotte Teunissen, Marta del Campo Milan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Genome-wide association studies have successfully identified many genetic risk loci for dementia, but exact biological mechanisms through which genetic risk factors contribute to dementia remains unclear. Integrating CSF proteomic data with dementia risk loci could reveal intermediate molecular pathways connecting genetic variance to the development of dementia.

We tested to what extent effects of known dementia risk loci can be observed in CSF levels of 665 proteins (proximity extension-based (PEA) immunoassays) in a deeply-phenotyped mixed-memory clinic cohort (n=502, mean age (sd) = 64.1 [8.7] years, 181 female [35.4%]), including patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD, n=213), dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB, n=50) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD, n=93), and controls (n=146). Validation was assessed in independent cohorts (n=99 PEA platform, n=198, MRM-targeted mass spectroscopy and multiplex assay). We performed additional analyses stratified according to diagnostic status (AD, DLB, FTD and controls separately), to explore whether associations between CSF proteins and genetic variants were specific to disease or not.

We identified four AD risk loci as protein quantitative trait loci (pQTL): CR1-CR2 (rs3818361, P=1.65e-08), ZCWPW1-PILRB (rs1476679, P=2.73e-32), CTSH-CTSH (rs3784539, P=2.88e-24) and HESX1-RETN (rs186108507, P=8.39e-08), of which the first three pQTLs showed direct replication in the independent cohorts. We identified one AD-specific association between a rare genetic variant of TREM2 and CSF IL6 levels (rs75932628, P = 3.90e-7). DLB risk locus GBA showed positive trans effects on seven inter-related CSF levels in DLB patients only. No pQTLs were identified for frontotemporal dementia, either for the total sample as for analyses performed within FTD only.

pQTL variants were involved in the immune system, highlighting the importance of this system in the pathophysiology of dementia. We further identified pQTLs in stratified analyses for AD and DLB, hinting at disease-specific pQTLs in dementia. Dissecting the contribution of risk loci to neurobiological processes aids in understanding disease mechanisms underlying dementia.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberawae090
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Mar 2024


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