Protein contributions to brain atrophy acceleration in Alzheimer's disease and primary age-related tauopathy

Keith A. Josephs, Peter R. Martin, Stephen D. Weigand, Nirubol Tosakulwong, Marina Buciuc, Melissa E. Murray, Leonard Petrucelli, Matthew L. Senjem, Anthony J. Spychalla, David S. Knopman, Bradley F. Boeve, Ronald C. Petersen, Joseph E. Parisi, Dennis W. Dickson, Clifford R. Jack, Jennifer L. Whitwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Alzheimer's disease is characterized by the presence of amyloid-b and tau deposition in the brain, hippocampal atrophy and increased rates of hippocampal atrophy over time. Another protein, TAR DNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43) has been identified in up to 75% of cases of Alzheimer's disease. TDP-43, tau and amyloid-b have all been linked to hippocampal atrophy. TDP-43 and tau have also been linked to hippocampal atrophy in cases of primary age-related tauopathy, a pathological entity with features that strongly overlap with those of Alzheimer's disease. At present, it is unclear whether and how TDP-43 and tau are associated with early or late hippocampal atrophy in Alzheimer's disease and primary age-related tauopathy, whether either protein is also associated with faster rates of atrophy of other brain regions and whether there is evidence for protein-associated acceleration/deceleration of atrophy rates. We therefore aimed to model how these proteins, particularly TDP-43, influence non-linear trajectories of hippocampal and neocortical atrophy in Alzheimer's disease and primary age-related tauopathy. In this longitudinal retrospective study, 557 autopsied cases with Alzheimer's disease neuropathological changes with 1638 ante-mortem volumetric head MRI scans spanning 1.0-16.8 years of disease duration prior to death were analysed. TDP-43 and Braak neurofibrillary tangle pathological staging schemes were constructed, and hippocampal and neocortical (inferior temporal and middle frontal) brain volumes determined using longitudinal FreeSurfer. Bayesian bivariate-outcome hierarchical models were utilized to estimate associations between proteins and volume, early rate of atrophy and acceleration in atrophy rates across brain regions. High TDP-43 stage was associated with smaller cross-sectional brain volumes, faster rates of brain atrophy and acceleration of atrophy rates, more than a decade prior to death, with deceleration occurring closer to death. Stronger associations were observed with hippocampus compared to temporal and frontal neocortex. Conversely, low TDP-43 stage was associated with slower early rates but later acceleration. This later acceleration was associated with high Braak neurofibrillary tangle stage. Somewhat similar, but less striking, findings were observed between TDP-43 and neocortical rates. Braak stage appeared to have stronger associations with neocortex compared to TDP-43. The association between TDP-43 and brain atrophy occurred slightly later in time (∼3 years) in cases of primary age-related tauopathy compared to Alzheimer's disease. The results suggest that TDP-43 and tau have different contributions to acceleration and deceleration of brain atrophy rates over time in both Alzheimer's disease and primary age-related tauopathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3463-3476
Number of pages14
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2021


  • Braak stage
  • Longitudinal
  • PART
  • Rate of atrophy
  • TDP-43

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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