APOEε2 is associated with milder clinical and pathological Alzheimer disease

Alberto Serrano-Pozo, Jing Qian, Sarah E. Monsell, Rebecca A. Betensky, Bradley T. Hyman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective The Alzheimer disease (AD) APOE 4 risk allele associates with an earlier age at onset and increased amyloid-β deposition, whereas the protective APOE 2 allele delays the onset and appears to prevent amyloid-β deposition. Yet the clinical and pathological effects of APOE 2 remain uncertain because of its relative rarity. We investigated the effects of APOE 2 and 4 alleles on AD pathology and cognition in a large US data set of well-characterized AD patients. Methods We studied individuals from the National Alzheimer's Coordinating Center autopsy cohort across the entire clinicopathological continuum of AD. Multivariate models were built to examine the associations between APOE alleles and AD neuropathological changes, using the APOE 3/ 3 group as comparator. Mediation analysis was used to estimate the direct and indirect effects of APOE alleles on AD pathology and cognition (Clinical Dementia Rating Sum of Boxes and Mini-Mental State Examination). Results Compared to APOE 3/ 3, APOE 2 is independently associated with lower Braak neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) stages and possibly fewer neuritic plaques, but has no direct effect on cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) severity, whereas APOE 4 is associated with more neuritic plaques and CAA, but has no independent effect on Braak NFT stage. Unadjusted analyses showed marked differences among APOE genotypes with respect to cognitive performance ( 2 > 3 > 4). Mediation analysis suggests that this is largely explained through effects on pathology. Interpretation Even when adjusted for age at onset, symptom duration, and other demographic variables, APOE 2 is associated with milder AD pathology and less severe antemortem cognitive impairment compared to APOE 3 and 4 alleles, suggesting a relative neuroprotective effect of APOE 2 in AD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)917-929
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of Neurology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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