gms | German Medical Science

MAINZ//2011: 56. GMDS-Jahrestagung und 6. DGEpi-Jahrestagung

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Medizinische Informatik, Biometrie und Epidemiologie e. V.
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Epidemiologie e. V.

26. - 29.09.2011 in Mainz

Association of prion protein with cognitive functioning in humans

Meeting Abstract

  • Lutz Philipp Breitling - DKFZ Heidelberg, Heidelberg
  • Elke Raum - DKFZ Heidelberg, Heidelberg
  • Christa Stegmaier - Epidemiologisches Krebsregister Saarland, Saarbrücken
  • Matthias Kliegel - TU Dresden, Dresden
  • Hermann Brenner - DKFZ Heidelberg, Heidelberg

Mainz//2011. 56. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Medizinische Informatik, Biometrie und Epidemiologie (gmds), 6. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Epidemiologie (DGEpi). Mainz, 26.-29.09.2011. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2011. Doc11gmds355

doi: 10.3205/11gmds355, urn:nbn:de:0183-11gmds3551

Published: September 20, 2011

© 2011 Breitling et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Background: Recent animal studies have suggested a key role for cellular prion protein (PrPc) in the pathological consequences of amyloid plaque formation, the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease [1]. This epidemiological study investigated whether serum concentrations of PrPc are associated with cognitive functioning in humans.

Methods: Cross-sectional study of 1,322 participants from the elderly general population in Germany, aged 65+ years at baseline (2000–2002). Cognitive functioning was assessed by the COGTEL phone interview [2] five years after baseline. Serum PrPc was determined by a commercial assay.

Results: In multiple linear regression adjusted for important confounders, subjects in higher PrPc quintiles appeared to have lower cognitive functioning scores than those in the lowest PrPc quintile. Spline regression suggested pronounced non-linearity with an inverse association between PrPc and congnitive functioning levelling off beyond median PrPc. Cognitive subdomain-specific models produced somewhat heterogeneous results.

Conclusion: The findings are suggestive of an independent association of PrPc with cognitive functioning in humans. Confirmatory and longitudinal studies are needed to elucidate the potential of PrPc for applications in early risk stratification for cognitive impairment.


Cisse M, Mucke L. Alzheimer's disease: A prion protein connection. Nature. 2009;457(7233):1090.
Breitling LP, et al. Large-scale application of a telephone-based test of cognitive functioning in older adults. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2010;30:309.