Association of Apolipoprotein E ɛ4 Allele with Enlarged Perivascular Spaces

OBJECTIVE: Enlarged perivascular spaces have emerged as markers of cerebral small vessel disease and are linked to perivascular drainage dysfunction. The apolipoprotein E-ɛ4 (APOE-ɛ4) allele is the strongest genetic risk factor for cerebral amyloid angiopathy and Alzheimer’s neuropathology, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. We studied the relationship between APOE-ɛ4 and the topography and burden of enlarged perivascular spaces to elucidate underlying mechanisms between APOE-ɛ4 and adverse clinical outcomes.
METHODS: We included 3,564 Framingham Heart Study participants with available genotypes and magnetic resonance imaging. Enlarged perivascular spaces in the basal ganglia and centrum semiovale were rated using a validated scale. We related APOE-ɛ4 allele presence to high burden of enlarged perivascular spaces in each region and a mixed score reflecting high burden in both regions using multivariable logistic regression. Exploratory analyses incorporated presence of cerebral microbleeds and assessed effect modification by hypertension.
RESULTS: Mean age was 60.7 years (SD = 14.6), 1,644 (46.1%) were men, 1,486 (41.8%) were hypertensive, and 836 (23.5%) participants were APOE-ɛ4 carriers. APOE-ɛ4 was associated with high burden of enlarged perivascular spaces in the centrum semiovale (odds ratio [OR] = 1.45, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.16, 1.81) and mixed regions (OR = 1.37, 95% CI = 1.11, 1.68). Associations were slightly stronger in hypertensive subjects.
INTERPRETATION: The APOE-ɛ4 allele plays a modest role in the burden of enlarged perivascular spaces in the centrum semiovale. Further studies are needed to clarify the underlying small vessel disease type in community-dwelling individuals with predominant centrum semiovale enlarged perivascular spaces, which may be hypertensive angiopathy in our sample. ANN NEUROL 2022;92:23-31.