Adaptive lymphocyte profiles correlate to brain Aβ burden in patients with mild cognitive impairment

J Neuroinflammation. 2017 Jul 27;14(1):149. doi: 10.1186/s12974-017-0910-x.


Background: We previously found that subjects with amnestic mild cognitive impairment exhibit a pro-inflammatory immune profile in the cerebrospinal fluid similar to multiple sclerosis, a central nervous system autoimmune disease. We therefore hypothesized that early neuroinflammation would reflect increases in brain amyloid burden during amnestic mild cognitive impairment.

Methods: Cerebrospinal fluid and blood samples were collected from 24 participants with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (12 men, 12 women; 66 ± 6 years; 0.5 Clinical Dementia Rating) enrolled in the AETMCI study. Analyses of cerebrospinal fluid and blood included immune profiling by multi-parameter flow cytometry, genotyping for apolipoprotein (APO)ε, and quantification of cytokine and immunoglobin levels. Amyloid (A)β deposition was determined by 18F-florbetapir positron emission tomography. Spearman rank order correlations were performed to assess simple linear correlation for parameters including amyloid imaging, central and peripheral immune cell populations, and protein cytokine levels.

Results: Soluble Aβ42 in the cerebrospinal fluid declined as Aβ deposition increased overall and in the precuneous and posterior cingulate cortices. Lymphocyte profiling revealed a significant decline in T cell populations in the cerebrospinal fluid, specifically CD4+ T cells, as Aβ deposition in the posterior cingulate cortex increased. In contrast, increased Aβ burden correlated positively with increased memory B cells in the cerebrospinal fluid, which was exacerbated in APOε4 carriers. For peripheral circulating lymphocytes, only B cell populations decreased with Aβ deposition in the precuneous cortex, as peripheral T cell populations did not correlate with changes in brain amyloid burden.

Conclusions: Elevations in brain Aβ burden associate with a shift from T cells to memory B cells in the cerebrospinal fluid of subjects with amnestic mild cognitive impairment in this exploratory cohort. These data suggest the presence of cellular adaptive immune responses during Aβ accumulation, but further study needs to determine whether lymphocyte populations contribute to, or result from, Aβ dysregulation during memory decline on a larger cohort collected at multiple centers.

Trial registration: AETMCI NCT01146717.

Keywords: 18F-florbetapir; Amnestic mild cognitive impairment; Amyloid burden; CD4 T cells; Cerebrospinal fluid; IgG; Memory B cells; T lymphocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity / physiology*
  • Aged
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism*
  • Aniline Compounds / metabolism
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / blood
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / pathology
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Ethylene Glycols / metabolism
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Positron-Emission Tomography


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Aniline Compounds
  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Cytokines
  • Ethylene Glycols
  • florbetapir

Associated data