Global and local ancestry modulate APOE association with Alzheimer's neuropathology and cognitive outcomes in an admixed sample
Mol Psychiatry. 2022 Nov;27(11):4800-4808. doi: 10.1038/s41380-022-01729-x. Epub 2022 Sep 7.
Dementia is more prevalent in Blacks than in Whites, likely due to a combination of environmental and biological factors. Paradoxically, clinical studies suggest an attenuation of APOE ε4 risk of dementia in African ancestry (AFR), but a dearth of neuropathological data preclude the interpretation of the biological factors underlying these findings, including the association between APOE ε4 risk and Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology, the most frequent cause of dementia. We investigated the interaction between African ancestry, AD-related neuropathology, APOE genotype, and functional cognition in a postmortem sample of 400 individuals with a range of AD pathology severity and lack of comorbid neuropathology from a cohort of community-dwelling, admixed Brazilians. Increasing proportions of African ancestry (AFR) correlated with a lower burden of neuritic plaques (NP). However, for individuals with a severe burden of NP and neurofibrillary tangles (NFT), AFR proportion was associated with worse Clinical Dementia Rating sum of boxes (CDR-SOB). Among APOE ε4 carriers, the association between AFR proportion and CDR-SOB disappeared. APOE local ancestry inference of a subset of 309 individuals revealed that, in APOE ε4 noncarriers, non-European APOE background correlated with lower NP burden and, also, worse cognitive outcomes than European APOE when adjusting by NP burden. Finally, APOE ε4 was associated with worse AD neuropathological burden only in a European APOE background. APOE genotype and its association with AD neuropathology and clinical pattern are highly influenced by ancestry, with AFR associated with lower NP burden and attenuated APOE ε4 risk compared to European ancestry.