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The C677T variant in MTHFR modulates associations between blood-based and cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers of neurodegeneration


The C677T functional variant in the methylene-tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene results in reduced enzymatic activity and elevated blood levels of homocysteine. Plasma levels of apolipoprotein E (ApoE) are negatively correlated with cerebral amyloid burden, but plasma homocysteine concentrations are associated with increased amyloid-β (Aβ) deposition in the brain. Here, we sought to determine whether associations between low plasma ApoE levels and elevated in-vivo amyloid burden were modulated by carrying the C677T variant. We tested this hypothesis in a large sample of elderly participants from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. We used general linear models to examine associations between plasma homocysteine concentrations, circulating ApoE levels, cerebrospinal fluid concentrations of Aβ, and their modulation by MTHFR and ApoE genotype. Age, sex, and dementia status were included as covariates in all analyses. Higher circulating levels of ApoE predicted increased cerebrospinal fluid concentrations of Aβ, indicating lower in-vivo burden, in C-allele carriers, but not in homozygotes at the C677T variant, who showed significant elevations in plasma homocysteine levels. This modulation by the MTHFR genotype did not remain significant after controlling for ApoE genotype. In T-homozygotes who do not carry the ApoE-ε4 allele, the relationship between low plasma ApoE levels and an increased risk of dementia is likely obscured by the presence of elevated plasma homocysteine. This report suggests the value of genotyping patients at the C677T functional variant when using plasma ApoE levels as a preclinical biomarker for Alzheimer's disease.

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