The role of different cell types and their interactions in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a complex and open question. Here, we pursued this question by assembling a high-resolution cellular map of the aging frontal cortex using single-nucleus RNA sequencing of 24 individuals with a range of clinicopathologic characteristics. We used this map to infer the neocortical cellular architecture of 638 individuals profiled by bulk RNA sequencing, providing the sample size necessary for identifying statistically robust associations. We uncovered diverse cell populations associated with AD, including a somatostatin inhibitory neuronal subtype and oligodendroglial states. We further identified a network of multicellular communities, each composed of coordinated subpopulations of neuronal, glial and endothelial cells, and we found that two of these communities are altered in AD. Finally, we used mediation analyses to prioritize cellular changes that might contribute to cognitive decline. Thus, our deconstruction of the aging neocortex provides a roadmap for evaluating the cellular microenvironments underlying AD and dementia.
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