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Vol. 20, No. 4, 2005
Issue release date: September 2005
Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord 2005;20:254–261

Apolipoprotein E ε4 Allele Differentiates the Clinical Response to Donepezil in Alzheimer’s Disease

Bizzarro A. · Marra C. · Acciarri A. · Valenza A. · Tiziano F.D. · Brahe C. · Masullo C.
aInstitutes of Neurology, and bMedical Genetics, Catholic University of Sacred Heart, School of Medicine, Rome, Italy

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The existence of an association between apolipoprotein E (APOE) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has been reported in several studies. The possession of an ApoE ε4 allele is now considered a genetic risk factor for sporadic AD. There has been a growing agreement about the role exerted by the ApoE ε4 allele on the neuropsychological profile and the rate of cognitive decline in AD patients. However, a more controversial issue remains about a possible influence of the APOE genotype on acetylcholinesterase inhibitor therapy response in AD patients. In order to address this issue, 81 patients diagnosed as having probable AD were evaluated by a complete neuropsychological test battery at the time of diagnosis (baseline) and after 12–16 months (retest). Patients were divided into two subgroups: (1) treated with donepezil at a dose of 5 mg once a day (n = 41) and (2) untreated (n = 40). Donepezil therapy was started after baseline evaluation. The APOE genotype was determined according to standardized procedures. We evaluated the possible effect of the APOE genotype on the neuropsychological tasks in relation to donepezil therapy. The statistical analysis of the results showed a global worsening of cognitive performances for all AD patients at the retest. Differences in the clinical outcome were analysed in the four subgroups of AD patients for each neuropsychological task. ApoE ε4 carriers/treated patients had improved or unchanged scores at retest evaluation for the following tasks: visual and verbal memory, visual attention and inductive reasoning and Mini Mental State Examination. These results indicate an effect of donepezil on specific cognitive domains (attention and memory) in the ApoE ε4 carriers with AD. This might suggest an early identification of AD patients carrying at least one ε4 allele as responders to donepezil therapy.

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