Unbiased classification of the elderly human brain proteome resolves distinct clinical and pathophysiological subtypes of cognitive impairment

Neurobiol Dis. 2023 Oct 1:186:106286. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2023.106286. Epub 2023 Sep 7.


Cognitive impairment in the elderly features complex molecular pathophysiology extending beyond the hallmark pathologies of traditional disease classification. Molecular subtyping using large-scale -omic strategies can help resolve this biological heterogeneity. Using quantitative mass spectrometry, we measured ∼8000 proteins across >600 dorsolateral prefrontal cortex tissues with clinical diagnoses of no cognitive impairment (NCI), mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and Alzheimer's disease (AD) dementia. Unbiased classification of MCI and AD cases based on individual proteomic profiles resolved three classes with expression differences across numerous cell types and biological ontologies. Two classes displayed molecular signatures atypical of AD neurodegeneration, such as elevated synaptic and decreased inflammatory markers. In one class, these atypical proteomic features were associated with clinical and pathological hallmarks of cognitive resilience. We were able to replicate these classes and their clinicopathological phenotypes across two additional tissue cohorts. These results promise to better define the molecular heterogeneity of cognitive impairment and meaningfully impact its diagnostic and therapeutic precision.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Biomarkers; Dementia; Proteomics; Systems biology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease*
  • Brain
  • Cognitive Dysfunction*
  • Humans
  • Proteome
  • Proteomics


  • Proteome