Whether the epidemiological association of amyloid beta (Aβ) and tau pathology with Alzheimer's disease (AD) is causal remains unclear. The recent failures to demonstrate the efficacy of several amyloid beta-modifying drugs may indicate the possibility that the observed association is not causal. These failures also led to efforts to develop tau-directed treatments whose efficacy is still tentative. Herein, we conducted a two-sample Mendelian randomization analysis to determine whether the relationship between the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers for amyloid and tau pathology and the risk of AD is causal. We used the summary statistics of a genome-wide association study (GWAS) for CSF biomarkers (Aβ1-42, phosphorylated tau 181 [p-tau], and total tau [t-tau]) in 3,146 individuals and for late-onset AD (LOAD) in 21,982 LOAD cases and 41,944 cognitively normal controls. We tested the association between the change in the genetically predicted CSF biomarkers and LOAD risk. We found a modest decrease in the LOAD risk per one standard deviation (SD) increase in the genetically predicted CSF Aβ (odds ratio [OR], 0.63 for AD; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.38-0.87; P = 0.02). In contrast, we observed a significant increase in the LOAD risk per one SD increase in the genetically predicted CSF p-tau (OR, 2.37; 95% CI, 1.46-3.28; P = 1.09×10-5). However, no causal association was observed of the CSF t-tau with the LOAD risk (OR, 1.15; 95% CI, 0.85-1.45; P = 0.29). Our findings need to be validated in future studies with more genetic variants identified in larger GWASs for CSF biomarkers.
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