Alzheimer's research & therapy

Low levels of cerebrospinal fluid complement 3 and factor H predict faster cognitive decline in mild cognitive impairment.

PMID 25478014


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is characterized by the deposition of tau and amyloid in the brain. Although the core cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) AD biomarkers amyloid β peptide 1-42 (Aβ1-42), total tau (t-tau) and phosphorylated tau 181 (p-tau181) show good diagnostic sensitivity and specificity, additional biomarkers that can aid in preclinical diagnosis or better track disease progression are needed. Activation of the complement system, a pivotal part of inflammation, occurs at very early stages in the AD brain. Therefore, CSF levels of complement proteins that could be linked to cognitive and structural changes in AD may have diagnostic and prognostic value. Using xMAP® technology based assays we measured complement 3 (C3) and factor H (FH) in the CSF of 110 controls (CN), 187 mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and 92xa0AD subjects of the AD Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) at baseline. All ADNI participants underwent clinical follow-up at 12xa0month intervals and MCI subjects had additional visits at 6 and 18xa0months. The association between CSF biomarkers and different outcome measures were analyzed using Cox proportional hazard models (conversion from MCI to AD), logistic regression models (classification of clinical groups) and mixed-effects models adjusted for age, gender, education, t-tau/Aβ1-42 and APOE ϵ4 presence (baseline and longitudinal association between biomarkers and cognitive scores). Although no association was found between the complement proteins and clinical diagnosis or cognitive measures, lower levels of C3 (β = -0.12, p = 0.041) and FH (β = -0.075, p = 0.041) were associated with faster cognitive decline in MCI subjects as measured by the AD Assessment Scale-cognitive subscale (ADAS-Cog) test. Furthermore, lower FH levels were associated with larger lateral ventricular volume (p = 0.024), which is indicative of brain atrophy. Our study confirms a lack of suitability of CSF C3 and FH as diagnostic biomarkers of AD, but points to their modest potential as prognostic biomarkers and therapeutic targets in cognitively impaired patients.