Epidemiological evidence supports the observation that subjects with type 2 diabetes (T2D) are at higher risk to develop Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, whether and how these two conditions are causally linked is unknown. Possible mechanisms include shared genetic risk factors, which were investigated in this study based on recent genome wide association study (GWAS) findings. In order to achieve our goal, we retrieved single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with T2D and AD from large-scale GWAS meta-analysis consortia and tested for overlap among the T2D- and AD-associated SNPs at various p-value thresholds. We then explored the function of the shared T2D/AD GWAS SNPs by leveraging expressional quantitative trait loci, pathways, gene ontology data, and co-expression networks. We found 927 SNPs associated with both AD and T2D with p-value≤0.01, an overlap significantly larger than random chance (overlapping p-value≤of≤6.93E-28). Among these, 395 of the shared GWAS SNPs have the same risk allele for AD and T2D, suggesting common pathogenic mechanisms underlying the development of both AD and T2D. Genes influenced by shared T2D/AD SNPs with the same risk allele were first identified using a SNP annotation variation (ANNOVAR) software, followed by using Association Protein-Protein Link Evaluator (DAPPLE) software to identify additional proteins that are known to physically interact with the ANNOVAR gene annotations. We found that gene annotations from ANNOVAR and DAPPLE significantly enriched specific KEGG pathways pertaining to immune responses, cell signaling and neuronal plasticity, cellular processes in which abnormalities are known to contribute to both T2D and AD pathogenesis. Thus, our observation suggests that among T2D subjects with common genetic predispositions (e.g., SNPs with consistent risk alleles for T2D and AD), dysregulation of these pathogenic pathways could contribute to the elevated risks for AD in subjects. Interestingly, we found that 532 of the shared T2D/AD GWAS SNPs had divergent risk alleles in the two diseases. For individual shared T2D/AD SNPs with divergent alleles, one of the allelic forms may contribute to one of the diseases (e.g., T2D), but not necessarily to the.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-76
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Aspects of Medicine
StatePublished - 12 Jun 2015


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • GWAS
  • Pathway
  • Shared genomic component
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • eQTLs


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