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Dopamine receptor D4 (DRD 4 ) polymorphisms with reduced functional potency intensify atrophy in syndrome-specific sites of frontotemporal dementia



We aimed to understand the impact of dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) polymorphisms on neurodegeneration in patients with dementia. We hypothesized that DRD4dampened-variants with reduced functional potency would be associated with greater atrophy in regions with higher receptor density. Given that DRD4 is concentrated in anterior regions of the limbic and cortical forebrain we anticipated genotype effects in patients with a more rostral pattern of neurodegeneration.


337 subjects, including healthy controls, patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) underwent genotyping, structural MRI, and cognitive/behavioral testing. We conducted whole-brain voxel-based morphometry to examine the relationship between DRD4 genotypes and brain atrophy patterns within and across groups. General linear modeling was used to evaluate relationships between genotype and cognitive/behavioral measures.


DRD4 dampened-variants predicted gray matter atrophy in disease-specific regions of FTD in anterior cingulate, ventromedial prefrontal, orbitofrontal and insular cortices on the right greater than the left. Genotype predicted greater apathy and repetitive motor disturbance in patients with FTD. These results covaried with frontoinsular cortical atrophy. Peak atrophy patterned along regions of neuroanatomic vulnerability in FTD-spectrum disorders. In AD subjects and controls, genotype did not impact gray matter intensity.


We conclude that DRD4 polymorphisms with reduced functional potency exacerbate neuronal injury in sites of higher receptor density, which intersect with syndrome-specific regions undergoing neurodegeneration in FTD.

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