Plasma Apolipoprotein E3 and Glucose Levels Are Associated in APOE ?3/?4 Carriers

Anna K. Edlund, Kewei Chen, Wendy Lee, Hillary Protas, Yi Su, Eric Reiman, Richard Caselli, Henrietta M. Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Altered cerebral glucose metabolism, especially prominent in APOE ?4 carriers, occurs years prior to symptoms in Alzheimer's disease (AD). We recently found an association between a higher ratio of plasma apolipoprotein E4 (apoE4) over apoE3, and cerebral glucose hypometabolism in cognitively healthy APOE ?3/?4 subjects. Plasma apoE does not cross the blood-brain barrier, hence we speculate that apoE is linked to peripheral glucose metabolism which is known to affect glucose metabolism in the brain. Objective: Explore potential associations between levels of plasma insulin and glucose with previously acquired plasma apoE, cerebral metabolic rate of glucose (CMRgl), gray matter volume, and neuropsychological test scores. Methods: Plasma insulin and glucose levels were determined by ELISA and a glucose oxidase assay whereas apoE levels were earlier quantified by mass-spectrometry in 128 cognitively healthy APOE ?3/?4 subjects. Twenty-five study subjects had previously undergone FDG-PET and structural MRI. Results: Lower plasma apoE3 associated with higher plasma glucose but not insulin in male subjects and subjects with a body mass index above 25. Negative correlations were found between plasma glucose and CMRgl in the left prefrontal and bilateral occipital regions. These associations may have functional implications since glucose levels in turn were negatively associated with neuropsychological test scores. Conclusion: Plasma apoE3 but not apoE4 may be involved in insulin-independent processes governing plasma glucose levels. Higher plasma glucose, which negatively affects brain glucose metabolism, was associated with lower plasma apoE levels in APOE ?3/?4 subjects. High plasma glucose and low apoE levels may be a hazardous combination leading to an increased risk of AD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-354
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • APOE
  • apolipoprotein E
  • cerebral glucose metabolism
  • glucose
  • insulin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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