The diagnosis of Parkinson's disease (PD) and atypical parkinsonian syndromes is difficult due to the lack of reliable, easily accessible biomarkers. Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a synucleinopathy whose symptoms often overlap with PD. Exosomes isolated from blood by immunoprecipitation using CNS markers provide a window into the brain's biochemistry and may assist in distinguishing between PD and MSA. Thus, we asked whether α-synuclein (α-syn) in such exosomes could distinguish among healthy individuals, patients with PD, and patients with MSA. We isolated exosomes from the serum or plasma of these three groups by immunoprecipitation using neuronal and oligodendroglial markers in two independent cohorts and measured α-syn in these exosomes using an electrochemiluminescence ELISA. In both cohorts, α-syn concentrations were significantly lower in the control group and significantly higher in the MSA group compared to the PD group. The ratio between α-syn concentrations in putative oligodendroglial exosomes compared to putative neuronal exosomes was a particularly sensitive biomarker for distinguishing between PD and MSA. Combining this ratio with the α-syn concentration itself and the total exosome concentration, a multinomial logistic model trained on the discovery cohort separated PD from MSA with an AUC = 0.902, corresponding to 89.8% sensitivity and 86.0% specificity when applied to the independent validation cohort. The data demonstrate that a minimally invasive blood test measuring α-syn in blood exosomes immunoprecipitated using CNS markers can distinguish between patients with PD and patients with MSA with high sensitivity and specificity. Future optimization and validation of the data by other groups would allow this strategy to become a viable diagnostic test for synucleinopathies.
Keywords: Biofluid; Biomarker; Extracellular vesicles; Synucleinopathy.