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An increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (AD) has previously been found to be associated with variants at the MS4A6A locus. We sought to identify which genes and transcripts in this region have altered expression in AD and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and are influenced by the AD risk variant(s), as a first step to understanding the molecular basis of AD susceptibility at this locus. Common variants located within highly expressed MS4A6A transcripts were significantly associated with AD and MS4A6A expression levels in blood from MCI and AD subjects (p < 0.05, rs610932, rs7232, rs583791). More copies of the protective (minor) allele were associated with lower MS4A6A expression of each transcript (e.g., p = 0.019; rs610932-total MS4A6A). Furthermore, in heterozygous AD subjects, relative expression of the protective allele of V4-MS4A6A transcripts was lower (p < 0.008). Irrespective of genotype, MS4A6A transcripts were increased in blood from people with AD (p < 0.003), whereas lower expression of full length V1-MS4A6A (p = 0.002) and higher expression of V4-MS4A6A (p = 1.8 × 10(-4)) were observed in MCI, relative to elderly controls. The association between genotype and expression was less consistent in brain, although BA9 did have a similar genotype association with V4-MS4A6A transcripts as in blood. MS4A6A transcripts were widely expressed in tissues and cells, with the exception of V4-MS4A6A, which was not expressed in neuronal cells. Together these results suggest that high levels of MS4A6A in emerging AD pathology are detrimental. Persons with MCI may lower MS4A6A expression to minimize detrimental disease associated MS4A6A activity. However, those with the susceptibility allele appear unable to decrease expression sufficiently, which may explain their increased risk for developing AD. Inhibiting MS4A6A may therefore promote a more neuroprotective phenotype, although further work is needed to establish whether this is the case.

Original publication




Journal article


Neurobiol Aging

Publication Date





279 - 290


Alzheimer's disease, MCI, MS4A genes, MS4A6A, eQTL, gene expression, genetic susceptibility, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Alzheimer Disease, Cognitive Dysfunction, DNA, Gene Expression, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Genetic Variation, Genotype, Humans, Male, Membrane Proteins, RNA, Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction, Risk, Transcription, Genetic