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Deciphering the causal relationship between blood metabolites and Alzheimers Disease: a Mendelian Randomization study

By Jodie Lord, Bradley Scott Jermy, Rebecca Green, Andrew Wong, Jin Xu, Cristina Legido-Quigley, Richard Dobson, Marcus Richards, Petroula Proitsi

Posted 30 Apr 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.28.20083253

There are currently no disease modifying treatments for Alzheimers Disease (AD). Epidemiological studies have highlighted blood metabolites as potential biomarkers, but possible confounding and reverse causation prevent causal conclusions. Here, we investigated whether nineteen metabolites previously associated with midlife cognitive function, are on the causal pathway to AD. Summary statistics from the largest Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) for AD and for metabolites were used to perform bi-directional univariable Mendelian Randomisation (MR). Bayesian model averaging MR (MR-BMA) was additionally performed to address high correlation between metabolites and to identify metabolite combinations which may be on the AD causal pathway. Univariable MR indicated three Extra-Large High-Density Lipoproteins (XL.HDL) to be on the causal pathway to AD: Free Cholesterol (XL.HDL.FC: OR=0.86, 95% CI=0.78-0.94), Total Lipids (XL.HDL.L: OR=0.88, 95% CI=0.80-0.97), and Phospholipids (XL.HDL.PL: OR=0.87, 95% CI=0.81-0.97); significant at an adjusted threshold of p<0.009. MR-BMA corroborated XL.HDL.FC to be amongst the top three causal metabolites, additionally to Total Cholesterol in XL.HDL (XL.HDL.C) and Glycoprotein Acetyls (GP) (posterior probabilities=0.112, 0.113, 0.287 respectively). Both XL.HDL.C and GP also demonstrated suggestive evidence of univariable causal associations (XL.HDL.C:OR=0.88, 95% CI=0.79-0.99; GP:OR=1.2, 95% CI=1.05-1.38); significant at the 5% level. This study offers insight into the causal relationship between metabolites previously demonstrating association with mid-life cognition, and AD. It highlights GP in addition to several XL.HDLs as causal candidates which warrant further investigation. As the pathological changes underpinning AD are thought to develop decades prior to symptom onset, progressing these findings could hold special value in informing future risk reduction strategies.

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