Apolipoprotein ε4 (APOE ε4) is the most significant genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Elevated blood C-reactive protein (CRP) further increases the risk of AD for people carrying the APOE ε4 allele. We hypothesized that CRP, as a key inflammatory element, could modulate the impact of other genetic variants on AD risk. We selected ten single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in reported AD risk loci encoding proteins related to inflammation. We then tested the interaction effects between these SNPs and blood CRP levels on AD incidence using the Cox proportional hazards model in UK Biobank (n = 279,176 white participants with 803 incident AD cases). The five top SNPs were tested for their interaction with different CRP cutoffs for AD incidence in the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) Generation 2 cohort (n = 3009, incident AD = 156). We found that for higher concentrations of serum CRP, the AD risk increased for SNP genotypes in 3 AD-associated genes (SPI1, CD33, and CLU). Using the Cox model in stratified genotype analysis, the hazard ratios (HRs) for the association between a higher CRP level (≥10 vs. <10 mg/L) and the risk of incident AD were 1.94 (95% CI: 1.33-2.84, p < 0.001) for the SPI1 rs1057233-AA genotype, 1.75 (95% CI: 1.20-2.55, p = 0.004) for the CD33 rs3865444-CC genotype, and 1.76 (95% CI: 1.25-2.48, p = 0.001) for the CLU rs9331896-C genotype. In contrast, these associations were not observed in the other genotypes of these genes. Finally, two SNPs were validated in 321 Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging (ADNI) Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) patients. We observed that the SPI1 and CD33 genotype effects were enhanced by elevated CRP levels for the risk of MCI to AD conversion. Furthermore, the SPI1 genotype was associated with CSF AD biomarkers, including t-Tau and p-Tau, in the ADNI cohort when the blood CRP level was increased (p < 0.01). Our findings suggest that elevated blood CRP, as a peripheral inflammatory biomarker, is an important moderator of the genetic effects of SPI1 and CD33 in addition to APOE ε4 on AD risk. Monitoring peripheral CRP levels may be helpful for precise intervention and prevention of AD for these genotype carriers.
The impact of increasing levels of blood C-reactive protein on the inflammatory loci SPI1 and CD33 in Alzheimer’s disease