There are no cures for neurodegenerative diseases and this is partially due to the difficulty of monitoring pathogenic molecules in patients during life. The Parkinson's disease gene α-synuclein (SNCA) is selectively expressed in blood cells and neurons. Here we show that SNCA transcripts in circulating blood cells are paradoxically reduced in early stage, untreated and dopamine transporter neuroimaging-supported Parkinson's disease in three independent regional, national, and international populations representing 500 cases and 363 controls and on three analogue and digital platforms with P < 0.0001 in meta-analysis. Individuals with SNCA transcripts in the lowest quartile of counts had an odds ratio for Parkinson's disease of 2.45 compared to individuals in the highest quartile. Disease-relevant transcript isoforms were low even near disease onset. Importantly, low SNCA transcript abundance predicted cognitive decline in patients with Parkinson's disease during up to 5 years of longitudinal follow-up. This study reveals a consistent association of reduced SNCA transcripts in accessible peripheral blood and early-stage Parkinson's disease in 863 participants and suggests a clinical role as potential predictor of cognitive decline. Moreover, the three independent biobank cohorts provide a generally useful platform for rapidly validating any biological marker of this common disease.
Keywords: biobank; biomarker; cognitive decline; gene expression; mitochondria; α-synuclein.
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