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Cerebral atherosclerosis contributes to Alzheimer's dementia independently of its hallmark amyloid and tau pathologies

By Aliza P. Wingo, Wen Fan, Duc M. Duong, Ekaterina S Gerasimov, Eric B. Dammer, Bartholomew White, Madhav Thambisetty, Juan C. Troncoso, Julie A Schneider, James J. Lah, David A. Bennett, Nicholas T. Seyfried, Allan I. Levey, Thomas S. Wingo

Posted 13 Oct 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/793349 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41593-020-0635-5)

Cerebral atherosclerosis is a leading cause of stroke and an important contributor to dementia. However, little is known about its molecular effects on the human brain and how these alterations may contribute to dementia. Here, we investigated these questions using large-scale quantification of over 8300 proteins from 438 post-mortem brains from a discovery and replication cohort. A proteome-wide association study and protein network analysis of cerebral atherosclerosis found 114 proteins and 5 protein co-expression modules associated with cerebral atherosclerosis. Enrichment analysis of these proteins and modules revealed that cerebral atherosclerosis was associated with reductions in synaptic signaling and RNA splicing and increases in oligodendrocyte development and myelination. A subset of these proteins (n=23) and protein modules (n=2) were also associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD) dementia, implicating a shared mechanism with AD through decreased synaptic signaling and regulation and increased myelination. Notably, neurofilament light (NEFL) and medium (NEFM) chain proteins were among these 23 proteins, and our data suggest they contribute to AD dementia through cerebral atherosclerosis. Together, our findings offer insights into effects of cerebral atherosclerosis on the human brain proteome, and how cerebral atherosclerosis contributes to dementia risk.

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