Publications & Posters

Association between polygenic risk score of Alzheimer’s disease and plasma phosphorylated tau in individuals from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative

Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy | January 8, 2021

Zettergren A, Lord J, Ashton NJ, Benedet AL, Karikari TK, Lantero Rodriguez J, Snellman A, Suárez-Calvet M, Proitsi P, Zetterberg H and Blennow K

Alzheimers Res Ther. 2021;13:17




Recent studies suggest that plasma phosphorylated tau181 (p-tau181) is a highly specific biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease (AD)-related tau pathology. It has great potential for the diagnostic and prognostic evaluation of AD, since it identifies AD with the same accuracy as tau PET and CSF p-tau181 and predicts the development of AD dementia in cognitively unimpaired (CU) individuals and in those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Plasma p-tau181 may also be used as a biomarker in studies exploring disease pathogenesis, such as genetic or environmental risk factors for AD-type tau pathology. The aim of the present study was to investigate the relation between polygenic risk scores (PRSs) for AD and plasma p-tau181.


Data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) was used to examine the relation between AD PRSs, constructed based on findings in recent genome-wide association studies, and plasma p-tau181, using linear regression models. Analyses were performed in the total sample (n = 818), after stratification on diagnostic status (CU (n = 236), MCI (n = 434), AD dementia (n = 148)), and after stratification on Aβ pathology status (Aβ positives (n = 322), Aβ negatives (n = 409)).


Associations between plasma p-tau181 and APOE PRSs (p = 3e−18–7e−15) and non-APOE PRSs (p = 3e−4–0.03) were seen in the total sample. The APOE PRSs were associated with plasma p-tau181 in all diagnostic groups (CU, MCI, and AD dementia), while the non-APOE PRSs were associated only in the MCI group. The APOE PRSs showed similar results in amyloid-β (Aβ)-positive and negative individuals (p = 5e−5–1e−3), while the non-APOE PRSs were associated with plasma p-tau181 in Aβ positives only (p = 0.02).


Polygenic risk for AD including APOE was found to associate with plasma p-tau181 independent of diagnostic and Aβ pathology status, while polygenic risk for AD beyond APOE was associated with plasma p-tau181 only in MCI and Aβ-positive individuals. These results extend the knowledge about the relation between genetic risk for AD and p-tau181, and further support the usefulness of plasma p-tau181 as a biomarker of AD.