Neurodegenerative disease concomitant proteinopathies are prevalent, age-related and APOE4-associated

Brain. 2018 Jul 1;141(7):2181-2193. doi: 10.1093/brain/awy146.


Lewy bodies commonly occur in Alzheimer's disease, and Alzheimer's disease pathology is frequent in Lewy body diseases, but the burden of co-pathologies across neurodegenerative diseases is unknown. We assessed the extent of tau, amyloid-β, α-synuclein and TDP-43 proteinopathies in 766 autopsied individuals representing a broad spectrum of clinical neurodegenerative disease. We interrogated pathological Alzheimer's disease (n = 247); other tauopathies (n = 95) including Pick's disease, corticobasal disease and progressive supranuclear palsy; the synucleinopathies (n = 164) including multiple system atrophy and Lewy body disease; the TDP-43 proteinopathies (n = 188) including frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 inclusions and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; and a minimal pathology group (n = 72). Each group was divided into subgroups without or with co-pathologies. Age and sex matched logistic regression models compared co-pathology prevalence between groups. Co-pathology prevalence was similar between the minimal pathology group and most neurodegenerative diseases for each proteinopathy: tau was nearly universal (92-100%), amyloid-β common (20-57%); α-synuclein less common (4-16%); and TDP-43 the rarest (0-16%). In several neurodegenerative diseases, co-pathology increased: in Alzheimer's disease, α-synuclein (41-55%) and TDP-43 (33-40%) increased; in progressive supranuclear palsy, α-synuclein increased (22%); in corticobasal disease, TDP-43 increased (24%); and in neocortical Lewy body disease, amyloid-β (80%) and TDP-43 (22%) increased. Total co-pathology prevalence varied across groups (27-68%), and was increased in high Alzheimer's disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, and neocortical Lewy body disease (70-81%). Increased age at death was observed in the minimal pathology group, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and multiple system atrophy cases with co-pathologies. In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and neocortical Lewy body disease, co-pathologies associated with APOE ɛ4. Lewy body disease cases with Alzheimer's disease co-pathology had substantially lower Mini-Mental State Examination scores than pure Lewy body disease. Our data imply that increased age and APOE ɛ4 status are risk factors for co-pathologies independent of neurodegenerative disease; that neurodegenerative disease severity influences co-pathology as evidenced by the prevalence of co-pathology in high Alzheimer's disease and neocortical Lewy body disease, but not intermediate Alzheimer's disease or limbic Lewy body disease; and that tau and α-synuclein strains may also modify co-pathologies since tauopathies and synucleinopathies had differing co-pathologies and burdens. These findings have implications for clinical trials that focus on monotherapies targeting tau, amyloid-β, α-synuclein and TDP-43.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology
  • Apolipoprotein E4 / genetics
  • Apolipoprotein E4 / physiology*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inclusion Bodies / pathology
  • Lewy Bodies / pathology
  • Lewy Bodies / physiology*
  • Lewy Body Disease / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple System Atrophy / pathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Pick Disease of the Brain / pathology
  • Prevalence
  • Supranuclear Palsy, Progressive / pathology
  • TDP-43 Proteinopathies / pathology
  • Tauopathies / physiopathology
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism
  • tau Proteins


  • Apolipoprotein E4
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • alpha-Synuclein
  • tau Proteins