Publications & Posters

Neurofilament Light Chain Is A Promising Serum Biomarker In Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 3


Li QF, Dong Y, Yang L, Xie JJ, Ma Y, Du YC, Cheng HL, Ni W and Wu ZY.

Mol Neurodegener. 2019 Nov 4;14(1):39. 

Doi: 10.1186/s13024-019-0338-0.



Spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3) is the most common subtype of autosomal dominantly inherited spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs). No validated blood biomarker is available to assess either disease progression or therapeutic response. Neurofilament light chain (NfL) was recently proposed as a serum biomarker for many neurodegenerative disorders. The present study investigated whether NfL was a promising serum biomarker for SCA3.


Seventeen SCA3 patients and 9 controls were enrolled in cohort A, and 116 SCA3 individuals (preclinical and patients) and 91 controls were recruited as cohort B. We assessed whether serum NfL correlated with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) NfL in cohort A and correlations between serum NfL levels and clinical features and brain volumes were determined in cohort B. The single-molecule array method was used to measure serum NfL levels. Disease severity was determined using the scale for the assessment and rating of ataxia (SARA) and the international cooperative ataxia rating scale (ICARS). Cerebellar and brainstem volumes were assessed using MRI neuroimaging measurements.


Serum/CSF NfL levels in cohort A were elevated in SCA3 patients, and serum and CSF NfL exhibited a significant positive correlation (r = 0.9179, p < 0.0001). Levels of serum NfL in cohort B were significantly higher in preclinical SCA3 (15.03 ± 7.49 vs 6.88 ± 2.72 pg/ mL, p < 0.0001) and manifest SCA3 subjects (37.56 ± 13.47 vs 9.07 ± 6.02 pg/ mL, p < 0.0001) compared to those in controls. Serum NfL concentrations increased from early disease stage to the next stage. Levels of serum NfL in ATXN3 mutation carriers were positively associated with SARA (r = 0.5458, p < 0.0001) and ICARS scores (r = 0.5522, p < 0.0001). Significant negative associations with cerebellar volumes (r = - 0.4217, p = 0.0003) and brainstem volumes (r = - 0.4263, p = 0.0003) were observed. All changes remained significant after adjustment for age and CAG repeat.


Levels of serum NfL were significantly elevated in SCA3 individuals and correlated with disease severity. Serum NfL is a promising serum biomarker of disease onset and progression, and a potential candidate biomarker of treatment response in SCA3.