Importance: Neurogranin (NGRN) seems to be a promising novel cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarker for synaptic loss; however, clinical, and especially longitudinal, data are sparse.
Objective: To examine the utility of NGRN, with repeated CSF sampling, for diagnosis, prognosis, and monitoring of Alzheimer disease (AD).
Design, setting, and participants: Longitudinal study of consecutive patients who underwent 2 lumbar punctures between the beginning of 1995 and the end of 2010 within the memory clinic-based Amsterdam Dementia Cohort. The study included 163 patients: 37 cognitively normal participants (mean [SE] age, 64  years; 38% female; and mean [SE] Mini-Mental State Examination [MMSE] score, 28 [0.3]), 61 patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) (mean [SE] age, 68  years; 38% female; and mean [SE] MMSE score, 27 [0.3]), and 65 patients with AD (mean [SE] age, 65  years; 45% female; and mean [SE] MMSE score, 22 [0.7]). The mean (SE) interval between lumbar punctures was 2.0 (0.1) years, and the mean (SE) duration of cognitive follow-up was 3.8 (0.2) years. Measurements of CSF NGRN levels were obtained in January and February 2014.
Main outcome and measure: Levels of NGRN in CSF samples.
Results: Baseline CSF levels of NGRN in patients with AD (median level, 2381 pg/mL [interquartile range, 1651-3416 pg/mL]) were higher than in cognitively normal participants (median level, 1712 pg/mL [interquartile range, 1206-2724 pg/mL]) (P = .04). Baseline NGRN levels were highly correlated with total tau and tau phosphorylated at threonine 181 in all patient groups (all P < .001), but not with Aβ42. Baseline CSF levels of NGRN were also higher in patients with MCI who progressed to AD (median level, 2842 pg/mL [interquartile range, 1882-3950 pg/mL]) compared with those with stable MCI (median level, 1752 pg/mL [interquartile range, 1024-2438 pg/mL]) (P = .004), and they were predictive of progression from MCI to AD (hazard ratio, 1.8 [95% CI, 1.1-2.9]; stratified by tertiles). Linear mixed-model analyses demonstrated that within-person levels of NGRN increased over time in cognitively normal participants (mean [SE] level, 90  pg/mL per year; P < .05) but not in patients with MCI or AD.
Conclusions and relevance: Neurogranin is a promising biomarker for AD because levels were elevated in patients with AD compared with cognitively normal participants and predicted progression from MCI to AD. Within-person levels of NGRN increased in cognitively normal participants but not in patients with later stage MCI or AD, which suggests that NGRN may reflect presymptomatic synaptic dysfunction or loss.