α-Synuclein and tau concentrations in cerebrospinal fluid of patients presenting with parkinsonism: a cohort study

Brit Mollenhauer, Joseph J Locascio, Walter Schulz-Schaeffer, Friederike Sixel-Döring, Claudia Trenkwalder, Michael G Schlossmacher
Lancet Neurology 2011, 10 (3): 230-40

BACKGROUND: Parkinson's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, and multiple system atrophy are brain disorders characterised by intracellular α-synuclein deposits. We aimed to assess whether reduction of α-synuclein concentrations in CSF was a marker for α-synuclein deposition in the brain, and therefore diagnostic of synucleinopathies.

METHODS: We assessed potential extracellular-fluid markers of α-synuclein deposition in the brain (total α-synuclein and total tau in CSF, and total α-synuclein in serum) in three cohorts: a cross-sectional training cohort of people with Parkinson's disease, multiple system atrophy, dementia with Lewy bodies, Alzheimer's disease, or other neurological disorders; a group of patients with autopsy-confirmed dementia with Lewy bodies, Alzheimer's disease, or other neurological disorders (CSF specimens were drawn ante mortem during clinical investigations); and a validation cohort of patients who between January, 2003, and December, 2006, were referred to a specialised movement disorder hospital for routine inpatient admission under the working diagnosis of parkinsonism. CSF and serum samples were assessed by ELISA, and clinical diagnoses were made according to internationally established criteria. Mean differences in biomarkers between diagnostic groups were assessed with conventional parametric and non-parametric statistics.

FINDINGS: In our training set, people with Parkinson's disease, multiple system atrophy, and dementia with Lewy bodies had lower CSF α-synuclein concentrations than patients with Alzheimer's disease and other neurological disorders. CSF α-synuclein and tau values separated participants with synucleinopathies well from those with other disorders (p<0·0001; area under the receiver operating characteristic curve [AUC]=0·908). In the autopsy-confirmed cases, CSF α-synuclein discriminated between dementia with Lewy bodies and Alzheimer's disease (p=0·0190; AUC=0·687); in the validation cohort, CSF α-synuclein discriminated Parkinson's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies versus progressive supranuclear palsy, normal-pressure hydrocephalus, and other neurological disorders (p<0·0001; AUC=0·711). Other predictor variables tested in this cohort included CSF tau (p=0·0798), serum α-synuclein (p=0·0502), and age (p=0·0335). CSF α-synuclein concentrations of 1·6 pg/μL or lower showed 70·72% sensitivity (95% CI 65·3-76·1%) and 52·83% specificity (39·4-66·3%) for the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. At this cutoff, the positive predictive value for any synucleinopathy was 90·7% (95% CI 87·3-94·2%) and the negative predictive value was 20·4% (13·7-27·2%).

INTERPRETATION: Mean CSF α-synuclein concentrations as measured by ELISA are significantly lower in Parkinson's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, and multiple system atrophy than in other neurological diseases. Although specificity was low, the high positive predictive value of CSF α-synuclein concentrations in patients presenting with synucleinopathy-type parkinsonism might be useful in stratification of patients in future clinical trials.

FUNDING: American Parkinson Disease Association, Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, National Institutes of Health, Parkinson Research Consortium Ottawa, and the Government of Canada.

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