Objective To test for an association between the apolipoprotein E (APOE) ϵ4 allele and dementias with synucleinopathy.
Design Genetic case-control association study.
Setting Academic research.
Patients Autopsied subjects were classified into 5 categories: dementia with high-level Alzheimer disease (AD) neuropathologic changes (NCs) but without Lewy body disease (LBD) NCs (AD group; n = 244), dementia with LBDNCs and high-level ADNCs (LBD-AD group; n = 224), dementia with LBDNCs and no or low levels of ADNCs (pure DLB [pDLB] group; n = 91), Parkinson disease dementia (PDD) with no or low levels of ADNCs (n = 81), and control group (n = 269).
Main Outcome Measure The APOE allele frequencies.
Results The APOE ϵ4 allele frequency was significantly higher in the AD (38.1%), LBD-AD (40.6%), pDLB (31.9%), and PDD (19.1%) groups compared with the control group (7.2%; overall χ24 = 185.25; P = 5.56 × 10−39), and it was higher in the pDLB group than the PDD group (P = .01). In an age-adjusted and sex-adjusted dominant model, ϵ4 was strongly associated with AD (odds ratio, 9.9; 95% CI, 6.4-15.3), LBD-AD (odds ratio, 12.6; 95% CI, 8.1-19.8), pDLB (odds ratio, 6.1; 95% CI, 3.5-10.5), and PDD (odds ratio, 3.1; 95% CI, 1.7-5.6).
Conclusions The APOE ϵ4 allele is a strong risk factor across the LBD spectrum and occurs at an increased frequency in pDLB relative to PDD. This suggests that ϵ4 increases the likelihood of presenting with dementia in the context of a pure synucleinopathy. The elevated ϵ4 frequency in the pDLB and PDD groups, in which the overall brain neuritic plaque burden was low, indicates that apoE might contribute to neurodegeneration through mechanisms unrelated to amyloid processing.