Aims/hypothesis: Type 2 diabetes is associated with cognitive impairments, but it is unclear whether common genetic factors influence both type 2 diabetes risk and cognition.
Methods: Using data from 1892 Mexican-American individuals from extended pedigrees, including 402 with type 2 diabetes, we examined possible pleiotropy between type 2 diabetes and cognitive functioning, as measured by a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery.
Results: Negative phenotypic correlations (ρp) were observed between type 2 diabetes and measures of attention (Continuous Performance Test [CPT d']: ρp = -0.143, p = 0.001), verbal memory (California Verbal Learning Test [CVLT] recall: ρp = -0.111, p = 0.004) and face memory (Penn Face Memory Test [PFMT]: ρp = -0.127, p = 0.002; PFMT Delayed: ρp = -0.148, p = 2 × 10-4), replicating findings of cognitive impairment in type 2 diabetes. Negative genetic correlations (ρg) were also observed between type 2 diabetes and measures of attention (CPT d': ρg = -0.401, p = 0.001), working memory (digit span backward test: ρg = -0.380, p = 0.005), and face memory (PFMT: ρg = -0.476, p = 2 × 10-4; PFMT Delayed: ρg = -0.376, p = 0.005), suggesting that the same genetic factors underlying risk for type 2 diabetes also influence poor cognitive performance in these domains. Performance in these domains was also associated with type 2 diabetes risk using an endophenotype ranking value approach. Specifically, on measures of attention (CPT d': β = -0.219, p = 0.005), working memory (digit span backward: β = -0.326, p = 0.035), and face memory (PFMT: β = -0.171, p = 0.023; PFMT Delayed: β = -0.215, p = 0.005), individuals with type 2 diabetes showed the lowest performance, while unaffected/unrelated individuals showed the highest performance, and those related to an individual with type 2 diabetes performed at an intermediate level.
Conclusions/interpretation: These findings suggest that cognitive impairment may be a useful endophenotype of type 2 diabetes and, therefore, help to elucidate the pathophysiological underpinnings of this chronic disease.
Data availability: The data analysed in this study is available in dbGaP: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/projects/gap/cgi-bin/study.cgi?study_id=phs001215.v2.p2.
Mollon, J., Curran, J. E., Mathias, S. R., Knowles, E., Carlisle, P., Fox, P. T., Olvera, R. L., Göring, H., Rodrigue, A., Almasy, L., Duggirala, R., Blangero, J., & Glahn, D. C. (2020). Neurocognitive impairment in type 2 diabetes: evidence for shared genetic aetiology. Diabetologia, 63(5), 977–986. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-020-05101-y
Office of Human Genetics