Genetic Study of White Matter Integrity in UK Biobank (N=8448) and the Overlap With Stroke, Depression, and Dementia
Background and Purpose—Structural integrity of the white matter is a marker of cerebral small vessel disease, which is the major cause of vascular dementia and a quarter of all strokes. Genetic studies provide a way to obtain novel insights in the disease mechanism underlying cerebral small vessel disease. The aim was to identify common variants associated with microstructural integrity of the white matter and to elucidate the relationships of white matter structural integrity with stroke, major depressive disorder, and Alzheimer disease.
Methods—This genome-wide association analysis included 8448 individuals from UK Biobank—a population-based cohort study that recruited individuals from across the United Kingdom between 2006 and 2010, aged 40 to 69 years. Microstructural integrity was measured as fractional anisotropy- (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD)-derived parameters on diffusion tensor images. White matter hyperintensity volumes (WMHV) were assessed on T2-weighted fluid-attenuated inversion recovery images.
Results—We identified 1 novel locus at genome-wide significance (VCAN [versican]: rs13164785; P=3.7×10−18 for MD and rs67827860; P=1.3×10−14 for FA). LD score regression showed a significant genome-wide correlation between FA, MD, and WMHV (FA-WMHV rG 0.39 [SE, 0.15]; MD-WMHV rG 0.56 [SE, 0.19]). In polygenic risk score analysis, FA, MD, and WMHV were significantly associated with lacunar stroke, MD with major depressive disorder, and WMHV with Alzheimer disease.
Conclusions—Genetic variants within the VCAN gene may play a role in the mechanisms underlying microstructural integrity of the white matter in the brain measured as FA and MD. Mechanisms underlying white matter alterations are shared with cerebrovascular disease, and inherited differences in white matter microstructure impact on Alzheimer disease and major depressive disorder.
- Received January 17, 2018.
- Revision received April 12, 2018.
- Accepted April 19, 2018.
- © 2018 The Authors.
Stroke is published on behalf of the American Heart Association, Inc., by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that the original work is properly cited.