Background: To investigate the association of plasma pTau181, assessed with a new immunoassay, with neurodegeneration of white matter and gray matter cross-sectionally and longitudinally, in aging and Alzheimer's disease.
Methods: Observational data was obtained from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, in which participants underwent plasma assessment and magnetic resonance imaging. Based on their clinical diagnosis, participants were classified as cognitively unimpaired and cognitively impaired. Linear regressions and linear mixed-effect models were used to test the cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between baseline plasma pTau181 and neurodegeneration using voxel-based morphometry.
Results: We observed a negative correlation at baseline between plasma pTau181 and gray matter volume in cognitively unimpaired individuals. In cognitively impaired individuals, we observed a negative association between plasma pTau181 and both gray and white matter volume. In longitudinal analyses conducted in the cognitively unimpaired group, plasma pTau181 was negatively correlated with gray matter volume, starting 36 months after baseline assessments. Finally, in cognitively impaired individuals, plasma pTau181 concentrations were negatively correlated with both gray and white matter volume as early as 12 months after baseline, and neurodegeneration increased in an incremental manner until 48 months.
Conclusions: Higher levels of plasma pTau181 correlate with neurodegeneration and predict further brain atrophy in aging and Alzheimer's disease. Plasma pTau181 may be useful in predicting AD-related neurodegeneration, comparable to positron emission tomography or cerebrospinal fluid assessment with high specificity for AD neurodegeneration.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Neurodegeneration; Plasma pTau181; Voxel-based morphometry.