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Apolipoprotein E levels in cerebrospinal fluid and the effects of ABCA1 polymorphisms

Suzanne E Wahrle1, Aarti R Shah1, Anne M Fagan1, Scott Smemo2, John SK Kauwe2, Andrew Grupe3, Anthony Hinrichs4, Kevin Mayo2, Hong Jiang1, Leon J Thal5, Alison M Goate126 and David M Holtzman17*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neurology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA

2 Department of Psychiatry, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA

3 Celera Diagnostics, Alameda, CA, USA

4 Department of Medicine, Division of Biostatistics, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA

5 Department of Neurosciences, University of California at San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA

6 Department of Genetics, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA

7 Department of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA

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Molecular Neurodegeneration 2007, 2:7  doi:10.1186/1750-1326-2-7

Published: 12 April 2007



Animal studies suggest that brain apolipoprotein E (apoE) levels influence amyloid-β (Aβ) deposition and thus risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD). We have previously demonstrated that deletion of the ATP-binding cassette A1 transporter (ABCA1) in mice causes dramatic reductions in brain and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) apoE levels and lipidation. To examine whether polymorphisms in ABCA1 affect CSF apoE levels in humans, we measured apoE in CSF taken from 168 subjects who were 43 to 91 years old and were either cognitively normal or who had mild AD. We then genotyped the subjects for ten previously identified ABCA1 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).


In all subjects, the mean CSF apoE level was 9.09 μg/ml with a standard deviation of 2.70 μg/ml. Levels of apoE in CSF samples taken from the same individual two weeks apart were strongly correlated (r2 = 0.93, p < 0.01). In contrast, CSF apoE levels in different individuals varied widely (coefficient of variation = 46%). CSF apoE levels did not vary according to AD status, APOE genotype, gender or race. Average apoE levels increased with age by ~0.5 μg/ml per 10 years (r2 = 0.05, p = 0.003). We found no significant associations between CSF apoE levels and the ten ABCA1 SNPs we genotyped. Moreover, in a separate sample of 1225 AD cases and 1431 controls, we found no association between the ABCA1 SNP rs2230806 and AD as has been previously reported.


We found that CSF apoE levels vary widely between individuals, but are stable within individuals over a two-week interval. AD status, APOE genotype, gender and race do not affect CSF apoE levels, but average CSF apoE levels increase with age. Given the lack of association between CSF apoE levels and genotypes for the ABCA1 SNPs we examined, either these SNPs do not affect ABCA1 function or if they do, they do not have strong effects in the CNS. Finally, we find no evidence for an association between the ABCA1 SNP rs2230806 and AD in a large sample set.