Plasma α-synuclein predicts cognitive decline in Parkinson's disease

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2017 Oct;88(10):818-824. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2016-314857. Epub 2017 May 26.


Objective: α-Synuclein is critical to the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease (PD). Few studies examined the plasma levels of α-synuclein due to the exceptionally low level of α-synuclein in plasma compared with cerebrospinal fluid. We aimed to investigate plasma α-synuclein in patients with PD of different disease severity.

Methods: There were total 114 participants, including 80 patients with PD and 34 controls, in the study. Participants received a complete evaluation of motor and non-motor symptoms, including cognitive function. We applied immunomagnetic reduction-based immunoassay to measure plasma levels of α-synuclein.

Results: Plasma levels of α-synuclein were significantly higher in patients with PD compared with controls (median: 1.56 pg/mL, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.98 pg/mL vs 0.02 pg/mL, 95% CI 0.01 to 0.03 pg/mL; p<0.0001). Although there was a significant increase in plasma α-synuclein levels in PD patients with a higher Hoehn-Yahr (H-Y) stage, there was no correlation with motor symptom severity, as assessed by Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale part III scores, after confounders (age, gender, and disease duration) were taken into account. However, plasma α-synuclein levels were significantly higher in PD patients with dementia (PDD) than in PD patients with mild cognitive impairment (PD-MCI) or normal cognition (0.42 pg/mL, (95% CI 0.25 to 0.93) for PD with normal cognition; 1.29 pg/mL (95% CI 0.76 to 1.93) for PD-MCI and 4.09 pg/mL (95% CI 1.99 to 6.19) for PDD, p<0.01) and were negatively correlated with Mini-Mental State Examination scores (R2-adjusted=0.3004, p<0.001), even after confounder adjustment.

Conclusions: Our data suggest that plasma α-synuclein level correlates with cognitive decline but not motor severity in patients with PD. Plasma α-synuclein could serve as a surrogate biomarker for patients at risk of cognitive decline.

Keywords: Biomarker; Parkinson’s disease; cognitive decline; dementia; α-synuclein.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / blood*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / etiology
  • Dementia / blood
  • Dementia / etiology
  • Humans
  • Parkinson Disease / complications*
  • alpha-Synuclein / blood*


  • Biomarkers
  • alpha-Synuclein