Major depressive disorder (MDD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are both common in older age and frequently co-occur. Numerous phenotypic studies based on clinical diagnoses suggest that a history of depression increases risk of subsequent AD, although the basis of this relationship is uncertain. Both illnesses are polygenic, and shared genetic risk factors could explain some of the observed association. We used genotype data to test whether MDD and AD have an overlapping polygenic architecture in two large population-based cohorts, Generation Scotland’s Scottish Family Health Study (GS:SFHS; N=19 889) and UK Biobank (N=25 118), and whether age of depression onset influences any relationship. Using two complementary techniques, we found no evidence that the disorders are influenced by common genetic variants. Using linkage disequilibrium score regression with genome-wide association study (GWAS) summary statistics from the International Genomics of Alzheimer's Project, we report no significant genetic correlation between AD and MDD (rG=−0.103, P=0.59). Polygenic risk scores (PRS) generated using summary data from International Genomics of Alzheimer's Project (IGAP) and the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium were used to assess potential pleiotropy between the disorders. PRS for MDD were nominally associated with participant-recalled AD family history in GS:SFHS, although this association did not survive multiple comparison testing. AD PRS were not associated with depression status or late-onset depression, and a survival analysis showed no association between age of depression onset and genetic risk for AD. This study found no evidence to support a common polygenic structure for AD and MDD, suggesting that the comorbidity of these disorders is not explained by common genetic variants.
We are grateful to the families and individuals who took part in the GS:SFHS and UKB studies, and to all those involved in participant recruitment, data collection, sample processing and QC, including academic researchers, clinical staff, laboratory technicians, clerical workers, IT staff, statisticians and research managers. This work is supported by the Wellcome Trust through a Strategic Award, reference 104036/Z/ 14/Z. We acknowledge with gratitude the financial support received from the Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation. This research has been conducted using the GS:SFHS and UK Biobank (project #4844) resources. GS:SFHS received core funding from the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health Directorates [CZD/16/6] and the Scottish Funding Council [HR03006]. UKB was established using funding from the Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council, the Scottish Government Department of Health, and the Northwest Regional Development Agency. DJP, IJD, TCR and AMM are members of the University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, part of the cross council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Initiative (MR/K026992/1). TCR is supported by Alzheimer's Scotland, through the Marjorie MacBeath bequest. Funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Medical Research Council is gratefully acknowledged. We are grateful for the use of summary data from the International Genomics of Alzheimer's Project and the Major Depressive Disorder
working group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium.