Background: Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology is found in a considerable portion of patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), particularly those with early dementia (PDD). Altered cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of amyloid-β (Aβ) and tau proteins have been found in PDD, with intermediate changes for Aβ42 in non-demented PD. The authors investigated whether AD-related CSF protein levels are altered and relate to neuropsychological performance in early, untreated PD.
Methods: CSF concentrations of Aβ42, Aβ40 and Aβ38 were measured by electrochemiluminiscene and levels of total tau (T-tau) and phosphorylated tau (P-tau) by ELISA in 109 newly diagnosed, unmedicated, non-demented, community-based PD patients who had undergone comprehensive neuropsychological testing, and were compared with those of 36 age-matched normal controls and 20 subjects with mild AD.
Results: PD patients displayed significant reductions in Aβ42 (19%; p=0.009), Aβ40 (15.5%; p=0.008) and Aβ38 (23%; p=0.004) but not T-tau (p=0.816) or P-tau (p=0.531) compared with controls. CSF Aβ42 reductions in PD were less marked than in AD (53%; p=0.002). Sequential regression analyses demonstrated significant associations between CSF levels of Aβ42 (β=0.205; p=0.019), Aβ40 (β=0.378; p<0.001) and Aβ38 (β=0.288; p=0.001) and memory impairment, but not executive-attentional or visuospatial dysfunction. Tau protein levels did not correlate with cognitive measures.
Conclusion: CSF Aβ levels are altered in a subset of patients with early PD and relate to memory impairment. Our study suggests that alterations in Aβ protein metabolism may contribute to the heterogeneity in pattern and course of cognitive decline associated with PD. Longitudinal studies are needed to clarify the clinical significance of CSF Aβ peptides as prognostic biomarkers in PD.