Vitamin D binding protein (VDBP), a multifunctional protein, has been found to be elevated in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of neurodegenerative disorder cases, implicating it in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the contribution of VDBP to AD has not been fully explored. We used a Multiple Indicators Multiple Causes (MIMIC) approach to examine the relationship between serum VDBP levels and cognitive performance in a well characterized AD cohort, the Texas Alzheimer's Research and Care Consortium (TARCC).
Instead of categorical diagnoses, we used a latent dementia phenotype (d), which has been validated in several prior studies using this dataset. We found that serum VDBP levels are significantly positively associated with d scores, which in turn are inversely related to cognitive performance. This suggests that d mediates the adverse effects of serum VDB on cognition and therefore that its effects are specifically dementing. d scores are also specifically related to default mode network (DMN) structure. VDBP acts as an amyloid-β (Aβ) scavenger, and Aβ deposition in the DMN is seen in the pre-clinical stages of AD.
We speculate then that serum effects of VDBP are mediated through changes in DMN structure or function, most probably via Aβ. Aβ affects the DMN early in the course of AD. Therefore, raised serum VDBP levels may be a useful indicator of future dementia and/or dementia conversion. This might be confirmed through longitudinal analysis of TARCC data.