Plasma neurofilament light chain predicts cerebellar atrophy and clinical progression in spinocerebellar ataxia
Neurobiology of Disease | February 23, 2021
Coarelli G, Darios F, Petit E, Dorgham K, Adanyeguh I, Petit E, Brice A, Mochel F and Durr A
Neurobiol Dis. 2021 Feb 23;153:105311
This study was peformed using a Simoa® Homebrew assay.
Neurofilament light chain (NfL) is a marker of brain atrophy and predictor of disease progression in rare diseases such as Huntington Disease, but also in more common neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. The aim of this study was to measure NfL longitudinally in autosomal dominant spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) and establish correlation with clinical and imaging parameters. We enrolled 62 pathological expansions carriers (17 SCA1, 13 SCA2, 19 SCA3, and 13 SCA7) and 19 age-matched controls in a prospective biomarker study between 2011 and 2015 and followed for 24 months at the Paris Brain Institute. We performed neurological examination, brain 3 T MRI and plasma NfL measurements using an ultrasensitive single-molecule array at baseline and at the two-year follow-up visit. We evaluated NfL correlations with ages, CAG repeat sizes, clinical scores and volumetric brain MRIs. NfL levels were significantly higher in SCAs than controls at both time points (p < 0.001). Age-adjusted NfL levels were significantly correlated at baseline with clinical scores (p < 0.01). We identified optimal NfL cut-off concentrations to differentiate controls from carriers for each genotype (SCA1 16.87 pg/mL, SCA2, 19.1 pg/mL, SCA3 16.04 pg/mL, SCA7 16.67 pg/mL). For all SCAs, NfL concentration was stable over two years (p = 0.95) despite a clinical progression (p < 0.0001). Clinical progression between baseline and follow-up was associated with higher NfL concentrations at baseline (p = 0.04). Of note, all premanifest carriers with NfL levels close to cut off concentrations had signs of the disease at follow-up. For all SCAs, the higher the observed NfL, the lower the pons volume at baseline (p < 0.01) and follow-up (p = 0.02). Higher NfL levels at baseline in all SCAs predicted a decrease in cerebellar volume (p = 0.03). This result remained significant for SCA2 only among all genotypes (p = 0.02). Overall, plasma NfL levels at baseline in SCA expansion carriers predict cerebellar volume change and clinical score progression. NfL levels might help refine inclusion criteria for clinical trials in carriers with very subtle signs.