Genome-wide association study of occupational attainment as a proxy for cognitive reserve

고현웅, 김소연, 김기원, 정상혁, 심인정, 차수진, 이혜원, 김범수, 윤주현, 하태현, 곽세율, 강재명, 이준영, 김진호, 박웅양, 노광식, 김도관, 명우재, 원홍희


Occupational attainment, which represents middle-age cognitive activities, is a known proxy marker of cognitive reserve for Alzheimer's disease. Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified numerous genetic variants and revealed the genetic architecture of educational attainment, another marker of cognitive reserve. However, the genetic architecture and heritability for occupational attainment remain elusive. We performed a large-scale GWAS of occupational attainment with 248,847 European individuals from the UK Biobank using the proportional odds logistic mixed model method. In this analysis, we defined occupational attainment using the classified job levels formulated in the UK Standard Occupational Classification system considering the individual professional skill and academic level. We identified 30 significant loci (P <5 × 10−8); 12 were novel variants, unassociated with other traits. Among them, four lead variants were associated with genes expressed in brain tissues by expression quantitative trait loci mapping from 10 brain regions: rs13002946, rs3741368, rs11654986, and rs1627527. The single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)-based heritability was estimated to be 8.5% (s.e. = 0.004) and partitioned heritability was enriched in the central nervous system and brain tissues. Genetic correlation analysis showed shared genetic backgrounds between occupational attainment and multiple traits, including education, intelligence, leisure activities, life satisfaction, and neuropsychiatric disorders. In two-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) analysis, we demonstrated that high occupation levels were associated with reduced risk for Alzheimer's disease (OR = 0.78, 95% CI = 0.65–0.92 in inverse variance weighted (IVW) method; OR = 0.73, 95% CI = 0.57–0.92 in the weighted median (WM) method). This causal relationship between occupational attainment and Alzheimer's disease was robust in additional sensitivity analysis that excluded potentially pleiotropic SNPs (OR = 0.72, 95% CI = 0.57–0.91 in the IVW method; OR = 0.72, 95% CI = 0.53–0.97 in the WM method). Multivariable MR confirmed that occupational attainment had an independent effect on the risk for Alzheimer’s disease even after taking educational attainment into account (OR = 0.72, 95% CI = 0.54–0.95 in the IVW method; OR = 0.68, 95% CI = 0.48–0.97 in the WM method).

Overall, our analyses provide insights into the genetic architecture of occupational attainment and demonstrate that occupational attainment is a potential causal protective factor for Alzheimer's disease as a proxy marker of cognitive reserve.

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