In Alzheimer-prone brain regions, metabolism and risk-gene expression are strongly correlated

Fengdan Ye, Quentin Funk, Elijah Rockers, Joshua M. Shulman, Joseph C. Masdeu, Belen Pascual

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Neuroimaging in the preclinical phase of Alzheimer's disease provides information crucial to early intervention, particularly in people with a high genetic risk. Metabolic network modularity, recently applied to the study of dementia, is increased in Alzheimer's disease patients compared with controls, but network modularity in cognitively unimpaired elderly with various risks of developing Alzheimer's disease needs to be determined. Based on their 5-year cognitive progression, we stratified 117 cognitively normal participants (78.3 ± 4.0 years of age, 52 women) into three age-matched groups, each with a different level of risk for Alzheimer's disease. From their fluorodeoxyglucose PET we constructed metabolic networks, evaluated their modular structures using the Louvain algorithm, and compared them between risk groups. As the risk for Alzheimer's disease increased, the metabolic connections among brain regions weakened and became more modular, indicating network fragmentation and functional impairment of the brain. We then set out to determine the correlation between regional brain metabolism, particularly in the modules derived from the previous analysis, and the regional expression of Alzheimer-risk genes in the brain, obtained from the Allen Human Brain Atlas. In all risk groups of this elderly population, the regional brain expression of most Alzheimer-risk genes showed a strong correlation with brain metabolism, particularly in the module that corresponded to regions of the brain that are affected earliest and most severely in Alzheimer's disease. Among the genes, APOE and CD33 showed the strongest negative correlation and SORL1 showed the strongest positive correlation with brain metabolism. The Pearson correlation coefficients remained significant when contrasted against a null-hypothesis distribution of correlation coefficients across the whole transcriptome of 20 736 genes (SORL1: P = 0.0130; CD33, P = 0.0136; APOE: P = 0.0093). The strong regional correlation between Alzheimer-related gene expression in the brain and brain metabolism in older adults highlights the role of brain metabolism in the genesis of dementia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberfcac216
JournalBrain Communications
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2022


  • AHBA gene expression
  • APOE
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • SORL1
  • brain metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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