The complex network of neurotrophic factors is supposed to play a role in neurodegeneration, but the effect of variations in their coding genes on susceptibility to sporadic Alzheimer's disease is not established. The mature form of nerve growth factor (NGF) derives from a precursor, proNGF, which was recently discovered to exert crucial functions in brain. We designed a case-control association study to test the hypothesis as to whether polymorphisms located in the proNGF genomic region influence the liability to Alzheimer's disease and its prodromal form, mild cognitive impairment. Three independent case-control samples, with individuals aged >60 years, were collected in Italian Alzheimer Units. One polymorphism located in the proNGF region, rs6330, demonstrated a minor allele frequency >5% and was used in the association study. The minor allele of rs6330 was more frequent in patients from the three sample series as compared to respective normal controls. Multivariate logistic regression showed a significant association under the dominant model in one cohort (OR 1.83, 95% CI 1.00-3.54) and in the pooled case-control sample (OR 1.47, 95% CI 1.03-2.08). These findings further suggest that proNGF may play a role in Alzheimer-type neurodegeneration and that genetic variations in the NGF locus may influence the occurrence of sporadic, late-onset Alzheimer's disease.
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