Background: Plasma amyloid [beta]-peptide (A[beta]) 40 and A[beta]42 levels are increased in persons with mutations causing early-onset familial Alzheimer's disease (AD). Plasma A[beta]42 levels were also used to link microsatellite genetic markers to a putative AD genetic locus on chromosome 10 and were observed in patients with incipient sporadic AD.
Methods: The authors measured plasma A[beta]40 and A[beta]42 levels using a sandwich ELISA after the initial examination of 530 individuals participating in an epidemiologic study of aging and dementia. Participants were examined at 18-month intervals, and plasma A[beta]40 and A[beta]42 levels were repeated in 307 subjects 3 years after baseline.
Results: Compared with individuals who never developed AD, patients with AD at baseline and those who developed AD during the follow-up had significantly higher A[beta]42, but not A[beta]40, plasma levels. The risk of AD in the highest quartile of plasma A[beta]42 was increased by more than twofold over that in the lowest quartile. The highest plasma A[beta]42 levels were observed in patients with AD who died during the follow-up. Plasma A[beta]42, but not A[beta]40, levels decreased over time in patients with newly acquired AD.
Conclusions: Plasma A[beta]40 and A[beta]42 increase with age and are strongly correlated with each other. Plasma A[beta]40 and A[beta]42 levels are elevated in some patients before and during the early stages of AD but decline thereafter. High plasma A[beta]42 levels may also be associated with mortality in patients with AD.