Tracking white matter degeneration in asymptomatic and symptomatic MAPT mutation carriers

Neurobiol Aging. 2019 Nov:83:54-62. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2019.08.011. Epub 2019 Aug 15.


Our aim was to investigate the patterns and trajectories of white matter (WM) diffusion abnormalities in microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) mutations carriers. We studied 22 MAPT mutation carriers (12 asymptomatic, 10 symptomatic) and 20 noncarriers from 8 families, who underwent diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and a subset (10 asymptomatic, 6 symptomatic MAPT mutation carriers, and 10 noncarriers) were followed annually (median = 4 years). Cross-sectional and longitudinal changes in mean diffusivity (MD) and fractional anisotropy were analyzed. Asymptomatic MAPT mutation carriers had higher MD in entorhinal WM, which propagated to the limbic tracts and frontotemporal projections in the symptomatic stage compared with noncarriers. Reduced fractional anisotropy and increased MD in the entorhinal WM were associated with the proximity to estimated and actual age of symptom onset. The annualized change of entorhinal MD on serial DTI was accelerated in MAPT mutation carriers compared with noncarriers. Entorhinal WM diffusion abnormalities precede the symptom onset and track with disease progression in MAPT mutation carriers. Our cross-sectional and longitudinal data showed a potential clinical utility for DTI to track neurodegenerative disease progression for MAPT mutation carriers in clinical trials.

Keywords: Asymptomatic; Diffusion tensor image; Frontotemporal dementia; Longitudinal; MAPT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / genetics*
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / pathology
  • Gray Matter / pathology
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / genetics
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • White Matter / pathology*
  • tau Proteins / genetics*


  • MAPT protein, human
  • tau Proteins