Synaptic markers of cognitive decline in neurodegenerative diseases: a proteomic approach

Brain. 2018 Feb 1;141(2):582-595. doi: 10.1093/brain/awx352.


See Attems and Jellinger (doi:10.1093/brain/awx360) for a scientific commentary on this article.Cognitive changes occurring throughout the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases are directly linked to synaptic loss. We used in-depth proteomics to compare 32 post-mortem human brains in the prefrontal cortex of prospectively followed patients with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease with dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and older adults without dementia. In total, we identified 10 325 proteins, 851 of which were synaptic proteins. Levels of 25 synaptic proteins were significantly altered in the various dementia groups. Significant loss of SNAP47, GAP43, SYBU (syntabulin), LRFN2, SV2C, SYT2 (synaptotagmin 2), GRIA3 and GRIA4 were further validated on a larger cohort comprised of 92 brain samples using ELISA or western blot. Cognitive impairment before death and rate of cognitive decline significantly correlated with loss of SNAP47, SYBU, LRFN2, SV2C and GRIA3 proteins. Besides differentiating Parkinson's disease dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and Alzheimer's disease from controls with high sensitivity and specificity, synaptic proteins also reliably discriminated Parkinson's disease dementia from Alzheimer's disease patients. Our results suggest that these particular synaptic proteins have an important predictive and discriminative molecular fingerprint in neurodegenerative diseases and could be a potential target for early disease intervention.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Lewy body dementias; cognitive impairment; mass spectrometry; synaptic proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / metabolism
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / complications*
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Proteomics
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • SYBU protein, human
  • alpha-Synuclein