PublicationsAbundant kif21b is associated with accelerated progression in neurodegenerative diseases
Kinesin family member 21b (kif21b) is one of the few multiple sclerosis (MS) risk genes with a presumed central nervous system function. Kif21b belongs to the kinesin family, proteins involved in intracellular transport of proteins and organelles. We hypothesised that kif21b is involved in the neurodegenerative component of MS and Alzheimer¿s (AD) disease. Post-mortem kinesin expression was assessed in 50 MS, 58 age and gender matched non-demented controls (NDC) and 50 AD. Kif21b expression was five-fold increased in AD compared to MS and NDC aged below 62 years (p¿=¿8*10¿5), three-fold between 62¿72 years (p¿=¿0.005) and not different above 72 years. No significant differences were observed between MS and NDC. In AD, kif21b expression was two-fold increased in Braak stage 6 (scoring for density of neurofibrillary tangles) compared with stage 5 (p¿=¿0.003). In MS patients, kif21b correlated with the extent of grey matter demyelination (Spearman¿s rho¿=¿0.31, p¿=¿0.03). Abundant kif21b, defined as expression above the median, was associated with a two-fold accelerated development of the Kurtzke Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) 6.0 (median time in low kif21b group 16 years vs. high kif21b 7.5 years, log-rank test p¿=¿0.04) in MS. Given the genetic association of kif21b with MS, the results were stratified according to rs12122721[A] single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). No association was found between kif21b expression or the time to EDSS 6 in kif21b risk SNP carriers compared to non-risk carriers. Kif21b was expressed in astrocytes in addition to neurons. Upon astrocyte activation, kif21b increased nine-fold. Abundant kif21b expression is associated with severe MS and AD pathology and with accelerated neurodegeneration independent of the kif21b risk SNP.