Objective The present work was undertaken to study the genetic contribution to the start of Alzheimer's disease (AD) with amyloid and tau biomarkers in cognitively intact older identical twins.
Methods We studied in 96 monozygotic twin-pairs relationships between amyloid-beta (A beta) aggregation as measured by the A beta 1-42/1-40 ratio in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF; n = 126) and positron emission tomography (PET, n = 194), and CSF markers for A beta production (beta-secretase 1, A beta 1-40, and A beta 1-38) and CSF tau. Associations among markers were tested with generalized estimating equations including a random effect for twin status, adjusted for age, gender, and apolipoprotein E epsilon 4 genotype. We used twin analyses to determine relative contributions of genetic and/or environmental factors to AD pathophysiological processes.
Results Twenty-seven individuals (14%) had an abnormal amyloid PET, and 14 twin-pairs (15%) showed discordant amyloid PET scans. Within twin-pairs, A beta production markers and total-tau (t-tau) levels strongly correlated (r range = 0.73-0.86, all p < 0.0001), and A beta aggregation markers and 181-phosphorylated-tau (p-tau) levels correlated moderately strongly (r range = 0.50-0.64, all p < 0.0001). Cross-twin cross-trait analysis showed that A beta 1-38 in one twin correlated with A beta 1-42/1-40 ratios, and t-tau and p-tau levels in their cotwins (r range = -0.28 to 0.58, all p < .007). Within-pair differences in A beta production markers related to differences in tau levels (r range = 0.49-0.61, all p < 0.0001). Twin discordance analyses suggest that A beta production and tau levels show coordinated increases in very early AD.
Interpretation Our results suggest a substantial genetic/shared environmental background contributes to both A beta and tau increases, suggesting that modulation of environmental risk factors may aid in delaying the onset of AD pathophysiological processes. ANN NEUROL 2021