The apolipoprotein E ɛ4 (APOE4) allele is the strongest genetic risk factor identified for developing Alzheimer's disease (AD). Among brain lipids, alteration in the ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) homeostasis is implicated in AD pathogenesis. APOE4 may influence both brain DHA metabolism and cognitive outcomes.
Using positron emission tomography, regional incorporation coefficients (k*), rates of DHA incorporation from plasma into the brain using [1-11C]-DHA (J in), and regional cerebral blood flow using [15O]-water were measured in 22 middle-aged healthy adults (mean age 35 years, range 19-65 years). Data were partially volume error-corrected for brain atrophy. APOE4 phenotype was determined by protein expression, and unesterified DHA concentrations were quantified in plasma. An exploratory post hoc analysis of the effect of APOE4 on DHA brain kinetics was performed.
The mean global gray matter DHA incorporation coefficient, k*, was significantly higher (16%) among APOE4 carriers (n = 9) than among noncarriers (n = 13, p = 0.046). Higher DHA incorporation coefficients were observed in several brain regions, particularly in the entorhinal subregion, an area affected early in AD pathogenesis. Cerebral blood flow, unesterified plasma DHA, and whole brain DHA incorporation rate (J in) did not differ significantly between the APOE groups.
Our findings suggest an increase in the DHA incorporation coefficient in several brain regions in APOE4 carriers. These findings may contribute to understanding how APOE4 genotypes affect AD risk.

PMID: 28335828

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