Proteome wide association studies of LRRK2 variants identify novel causal and druggable proteins for Parkinson’s disease

Common and rare variants in the LRRK2 locus are associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD) risk, but the downstream effects of these variants on protein levels remain unknown. We performed comprehensive proteogenomic analyses using the largest aptamer-based CSF proteomics study to date (7006 aptamers (6138 unique proteins) in 3107 individuals). The dataset comprised six different and independent cohorts (five using the SomaScan7K (ADNI, DIAN, MAP, Barcelona-1 (Pau), and FundaciĆ³ ACE (Ruiz)) and the PPMI cohort using the SomaScan5K panel). We identified eleven independent SNPs in the LRRK2 locus associated with the levels of 25 proteins as well as PD risk. Of these, only eleven proteins have been previously associated with PD risk (e.g., GRN or GPNMB). Proteome-wide association study (PWAS) analyses suggested that the levels of ten of those proteins were genetically correlated with PD risk, and seven were validated in the PPMI cohort. Mendelian randomization analyses identified GPNMB, LCT, and CD68 causal for PD and nominate one more (ITGB2). These 25 proteins were enriched for microglia-specific proteins and trafficking pathways (both lysosome and intracellular). This study not only demonstrates that protein phenome-wide association studies (PheWAS) and trans-protein quantitative trail loci (pQTL) analyses are powerful for identifying novel protein interactions in an unbiased manner, but also that LRRK2 is linked with the regulation of PD-associated proteins that are enriched in microglial cells and specific lysosomal pathways.