Genotype-phenotype correlation of T-cell subtypes reveals senescent and cytotoxic genes in Alzheimer’s disease

Recent studies identifying expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) in immune cells have uncovered important links between disease risk alleles and gene expression trends in monocytes, T cells and other cell types. However, these studies are generally done with young, healthy subjects, limiting the utility of their findings for age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We have performed RNA sequencing on four T-cell subsets in genome-wide genotyped and well-characterized AD subjects and age- and sex-matched controls from the Religious Orders Study/Memory and Aging Project. We correlated gene expression data with AD neuropathological traits and with single-nucleotide polymorphisms to detect eQTLs. We identified several significant genes involved in T-cell senescence and cytotoxicity, consistent with T-cell RNA sequencing studies in aged/AD cohorts. We identified unexpected eQTLs previously associated with neuropsychiatric disease traits. Finally, we discovered that pathways related to axon guidance and synaptic function were enriched among trans-eQTLs in coding regions of the genome. Our data strengthen the potential link between T-cell senescence and age-related neurodegenerative disease. In addition, our eQTL data suggest that T-cell phenotypes may influence neuropsychiatric disorders and can be influenced by genes involved in neurodevelopmental processes.