Frontobasal gray matter loss is associated with the TREM2 p.R47H variant
A rare heterozygous TREM2 variant p.R47H (rs75932628) has been associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD). We aimed to investigate the clinical presentation, neuropsychological profile, and regional pattern of gray matter and white matter loss associated with the TREM2 variant p.R47H, and to establish which regions best differentiate p.R47H carriers from noncarriers in 2 sample sets (Spanish and Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, ADNI1). This was a cross-sectional study including a total number of 16 TREM2 p.R47H carriers diagnosed with AD or mild cognitive impairment, 75 AD p.R47H noncarriers and 75 cognitively intact TREM2 p.R47H noncarriers. Spanish AD TREM2 p.R47H carriers showed apraxia (9 of 9) and psychiatric symptoms such as personality changes, anxiety, paranoia, or fears more frequently than in AD noncarriers (corrected p = 0.039). For gray matter and white matter volumetric brain magnetic resonance imaging voxelwise analyses, we used statistical parametric mapping (SPM8) based on the General Linear Model. We used 3 different design matrices with a full factorial design. Voxel-based morphometry analyses were performed separately in the 2 sample sets. The absence of interset statistical differences allowed us to perform joint and conjunction analyses. Independent voxel-based morphometry analysis of the Spanish set as well as conjunction and joint analyses revealed substantial gray matter loss in orbitofrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex with relative preservation of parietal lobes in AD and/or mild cognitive impairment TREM2 p.R47H carriers, suggesting that TREM2 p.R47H variant is associated with certain clinical and neuroimaging AD features in addition to the increased TREM2 p.R47H atrophy in temporal lobes as described previously. The high frequency of pathologic behavioral symptoms, combined with a preferential frontobasal gray matter cortical loss, suggests that frontobasal and temporal regions could be more susceptible to the deleterious biological effects of the TREM2 variant p.R47H.