Recent genetic studies show that the apolipoprotein E (ApoE) ε4 allele is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). Whether this allele is associated with other dementing diseases is the next important question. The information could provide a clue to the pathogenetic role of ApoE. In the present study, patients with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) of alcoholic etiology were divided into two groups according to the severity of intellectual deficits, i.e., those of 'classical' Korsakoff patients with preserved intellectual function other than amnesia and those with global intellectual deficits. Genotyping showed that the frequency of ApoE ε4 allele was significantly higher in the patients with global deficits, suggesting the involvement of this allele in the intellectual decline of WKS. In contrast, distributions of other two markers, α1-antichymotrypsin and presenilin-1, did not differ between the two groups. These results added further support to the notion that the consequence of acute insult to the brain is influenced by the ApoE genotype, and suggested ApoE's role in the development of a certain group of 'alcoholic dementia'.
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