Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a terminal, age-related neurological syndrome exhibiting progressive cognitive and memory decline, however AD patients in addition exhibit ancillary neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPSs) and these include aggression. In a recent report by Dr. Lukiw from the Louisiana State University Health Science Center, and his team provide recent evidence for the mis-regulation of a small family of genes expressed in the human hippocampus that appear to be significantly involved in expression patterns common to both AD and aggression.

DNA array- and mRNA transcriptome-based gene expression analysis and candidate gene association and/or genome-wide association studies (CGAS, GWAS) of aggressive attributes in humans have revealed a surprisingly small subset of six brain genes that are also strongly associated with altered gene expression patterns in AD.

Analysis of expressed genes common to both Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and aggression

(A) mRNA transcriptomic arrays were used to quantify the levels of some of the most mis-regulated genes in mild-cognitive impairment (MCI) and AD brain samples compared to an MCI control (C1) and an independent AD control (C2). (B) data for AR, BDNF, COMT, DBH, NOS1 and TPH1 are compared to controls for each sample

These genes encoded on five different chromosomes (chr) include the androgen receptor (AR; chrXq12), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF; chr11p14.1), catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT; chr22q11.21), neuronal specific nitric oxide synthase (NOS1; chr12q24.22), dopamine beta-hydroxylase (DBH chr9q34.2) and tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH1, chr11p15.1 and TPH2, chr12q21.1). Interestingly, (i) the expression of three of these six genes (COMT, DBH, NOS1) are highly variable; (ii) three of these six genes (COMT, DBH, TPH1) are involved in DA or serotonin metabolism, biosynthesis and/or neurotransmission; and (iii) five of these six genes (AR, BDNF, COMT, DBH, NOS1) have been implicated in the development, onset and/or propagation of schizophrenia. The magnitude of the expression of genes implicated in aggressive behavior appears to be more pronounced in the later stages of AD when compared to MCI.

These recent genetic data further indicate that the extent of cognitive impairment may have some bearing on the degree of aggression which accompanies the AD phenotype.


W. J. Lukiw, E. I. Rogaev (2017) Genetics of Aggression in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) Front Aging Neurosci 9: 87 doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2017.00087 [abstract]

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