Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Findley Finseth

Reader 2

Melissa Coleman

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Rights Information

© 2018 Layne E Wells


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common neurodegenerative disease, characterized by progressive amyloid plaque aggregation, neurofibrillary tangles, and cortical tissue death. As the prevalence of AD is projected to climb in coming years, there is a vested interest in identifying endophenotypes by which to improve diagnostics and direct clinical interventions. The risk for complex disorders, such as AD, is influenced by multiple genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Significant strides have been made in identifying genetic variants linked to AD through the genome-wide association study (GWAS). It has been estimated in more recent years, however, that GWAS-identified variants account for limited AD heritability, suggesting the role of non-sequence genetic mechanisms, such as epigenetic moderators. By influencing gene expression, epigenetic markers have been linked to age- associated decline through modulation of chromatin architecture and global genome instability, though such mechanisms are also involved with a number of normal biological processes, including neurogenesis. As the strategies of clinical genetics shift to include a heavier focus on epigenetic contributors, altered adult neurogenesis presents itself as a strong candidate for an endophenotype of AD development. This thesis proposes that, due to neuropathological dysfunction of epigenetic mechanisms in AD, new generations of neurons fail to proliferate, differentiate, and mature correctly, resulting in the larger loss of neurons and cognitive deficits characteristic to neurodegenerative disease. The plasticity of the epigenome and the role of epigenetic factors as mediators of the genome and the environment make such alterations attractive in AD research and implies the potential for therapeutic interventions. The present review submits neurogenesis as a viable target of epigenetic research in AD, highlights shared loci between neurogenesis and AD in the epigenome, and considers the promises and limitations of the neurogenic endophenotype.