Deep post-GWAS analysis identifies potential risk genes and risk variants for Alzheimer’s disease, providing new insights into its disease mechanisms

Zhen Wang, Quanwei Zhang, Jhih Rong Lin, M. Reza Jabalameli, Joydeep Mitra, Nha Nguyen, Zhengdong D. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a genetically complex, multifactorial neurodegenerative disease. It affects more than 45 million people worldwide and currently remains untreatable. Although genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified many AD-associated common variants, only about 25 genes are currently known to affect the risk of developing AD, despite its highly polygenic nature. Moreover, the risk variants underlying GWAS AD-association signals remain unknown. Here, we describe a deep post-GWAS analysis of AD-associated variants, using an integrated computational framework for predicting both disease genes and their risk variants. We identified 342 putative AD risk genes in 203 risk regions spanning 502 AD-associated common variants. 246 AD risk genes have not been identified as AD risk genes by previous GWAS collected in GWAS catalogs, and 115 of 342 AD risk genes are outside the risk regions, likely under the regulation of transcriptional regulatory elements contained therein. Even more significantly, for 109 AD risk genes, we predicted 150 risk variants, of both coding and regulatory (in promoters or enhancers) types, and 85 (57%) of them are supported by functional annotation. In-depth functional analyses showed that AD risk genes were overrepresented in AD-related pathways or GO terms—e.g., the complement and coagulation cascade and phosphorylation and activation of immune response—and their expression was relatively enriched in microglia, endothelia, and pericytes of the human brain. We found nine AD risk genes—e.g., IL1RAP, PMAIP1, LAMTOR4—as predictors for the prognosis of AD survival and genes such as ARL6IP5 with altered network connectivity between AD patients and normal individuals involved in AD progression. Our findings open new strategies for developing therapeutics targeting AD risk genes or risk variants to influence AD pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20511
JournalScientific reports
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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