Alzheimer’s disease genetic risk and cognitive reserve in relationship to long-term cognitive trajectories among cognitively normal individuals

Author(s): Pettigrew, C; Nazarovs, J; Soldan, A; Singh, V; Wang, J; Hohman, T; Dumitrescu, L; Libby, J; Kunkle, B; Gross, AL; Johnson, S; Lu, Q; Engelman, C; Masters, CL; Maruff, P; Laws, SM; Morris, JC; Hassenstab, J; Cruchaga, C; Resnick, SM; Kitner-Triolo, MH; An, Y; Albert, M;
Year: 2023;  
Journal: Alzheimer's Research & Therapy;  
Volume: 15;  
Issue: 1;  

BACKGROUND: Both Alzheimer’s disease (AD) genetic risk factors and indices of cognitive reserve (CR) influence risk of cognitive decline, but it remains unclear whether they interact. This study examined whether a CR index score modifies the relationship between AD genetic risk factors and long-term cognitive trajectories in a large sample of individuals with normal cognition.
METHODS: Analyses used data from the Preclinical AD Consortium, including harmonized data from 5 longitudinal cohort studies. Participants were cognitively normal at baseline (M baseline age = 64 years, 59% female) and underwent 10 years of follow-up, on average. AD genetic risk was measured by (i) apolipoprotein-E (APOE) genetic status (APOE-ε2 and APOE-ε4 vs. APOE-ε3; N = 1819) and (ii) AD polygenic risk scores (AD-PRS; N = 1175). A CR index was calculated by combining years of education and literacy scores. Longitudinal cognitive performance was measured by harmonized factor scores for global cognition, episodic memory, and executive function.
RESULTS: In mixed-effects models, higher CR index scores were associated with better baseline cognitive performance for all cognitive outcomes. APOE-ε4 genotype and AD-PRS that included the APOE region (AD-PRSAPOE) were associated with declines in all cognitive domains, whereas AD-PRS that excluded the APOE region (AD-PRSw/oAPOE) was associated with declines in executive function and global cognition, but not memory. There were significant 3-way CR index score × APOE-ε4 × time interactions for the global (p = 0.04, effect size = 0.16) and memory scores (p = 0.01, effect size = 0.22), indicating the negative effect of APOE-ε4 genotype on global and episodic memory score change was attenuated among individuals with higher CR index scores. In contrast, levels of CR did not attenuate APOE-ε4-related declines in executive function or declines associated with higher AD-PRS. APOE-ε2 genotype was unrelated to cognition.
CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that APOE-ε4 and non-APOE-ε4 AD polygenic risk are independently associated with global cognitive and executive function declines among individuals with normal cognition at baseline, but only APOE-ε4 is associated with declines in episodic memory. Importantly, higher levels of CR may mitigate APOE-ε4-related declines in some cognitive domains. Future research is needed to address study limitations, including generalizability due to cohort demographic characteristics.