Stage-specific links between plasma neurofilament light and imaging biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease
BRAIN: A JOURNAL OF NEUROLOGY | NOVEMBER 19, 2020
Benedet AL, Leuzy A, Pascoal TA, Ashton NJ, Mathotaarachchi S, Savard M, Therriault J, Kang MS, Chamoun M, Schöll M, Zimmer ER, Gauthier S, Labbe A, Zetterberg H, Rosa-Neto P and Blennow K.
Neurofilament light (NfL) is a marker of neuroaxonal injury, a prominent feature of Alzheimer’s disease. It remains uncertain, however, how it relates to amyloid and tau pathology or neurodegeneration across the Alzheimer’s disease continuum. The aim of this study was to investigate how plasma NfL relates to amyloid and tau PET and MRI measures of brain atrophy in participants with and without cognitive impairment. We retrospectively examined the association between plasma NfL and MRI measures of grey/white matter volumes in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative [ADNI: n =1149; 382 cognitively unimpaired control subjects and 767 cognitively impaired participants (mild cognitive impairment n =420, Alzheimer’s disease dementia n =347)]. Longitudinal plasma NfL was measured using single molecule array (Simoa) technology. Cross-sectional associations between plasma NfL and PET amyloid and tau measures were independently assessed in two cohorts: ADNI [n =198; 110 cognitively unimpaired, 88 cognitively impaired (MCI n =67, Alzheimer’s disease dementia n =21), data accessed October 2018]; and Translational Biomarkers in Aging and Dementia [TRIAD, n =116; 74 cognitively unimpaired, 42 cognitively impaired (MCI n =16, Alzheimer’s disease dementia n =26), data obtained November 2017 to January 2019]. Associations between plasma NfL and imaging-derived measures were examined voxel-wise using linear regression (cross-sectional) and linear mixed effect models (longitudinal). Cross-sectional analyses in both cohorts showed that plasma NfL was associated with PET findings in brain regions typically affected by Alzheimer’s disease; associations were specific to amyloid PET in cognitively unimpaired and tau PET in cognitively impaired (P <0.05). Longitudinal analyses showed that NfL levels were associated with grey/white matter volume loss; grey matter atrophy in cognitively unimpaired was specific to APOE ε4 carriers (P <0.05). These findings suggest that plasma NfL increases in response to amyloid-related neuronal injury in preclinical stages of Alzheimer’s disease, but is related to tau-mediated neurodegeneration in symptomatic patients. As such, plasma NfL may a useful measure to monitor effects in disease-modifying drug trials.
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