Selective vulnerability is a central concept to the myriad of devastating neurodegenerative disorders. Although hippocampus and cortex are selectively vulnerable in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the degree of involvement lies along a spectrum that we previously defined as AD subtypes revealing distinct clinical correlates. To operationalize heterogeneity of disease spectrum, we classified corticolimbic patterns of neurofibrillary tangles to capture extreme and representative phenotypes. We combined bulk RNA sequencing with digital pathology to examine hippocampal vulnerability in AD. Using a multidisciplinary approach, we uncovered disease-relevant hippocampal gene expression changes. Biological relevance was prioritized using machine learning and several levels of human validation. This resulted in five genes highly predictive of neuropathologically diagnosed AD: SERPINA5, RYBP, SLC38A2, FEM1B, and PYDC1. Deeper investigation revealed SERPINA5 to be a novel tau binding partner that may represent a "tipping point" in the dynamic maturity of neurofibrillary tangles. Our study highlights the importance of embracing heterogeneity of the human brain to yield promising gene candidates as exampled by SERPINA5.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience