Background: Markers of neuroinflammation are increased in some patients with LRRK2 Parkinson's disease compared with individuals with idiopathic Parkinson's disease, suggesting possible differences in disease pathogenesis. Previous PET studies have suggested amplified dopamine turnover and preserved serotonergic innervation in LRRK2 mutation carriers. We postulated that patients with LRRK2 mutations might show abnormalities of central cholinergic activity, even before the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. Methods: Between June, 2009, and December, 2015, we recruited participants from four movement disorder clinics in Canada, Norway, and the USA. Patients with Parkinson's disease were diagnosed by movement disorder neurologists on the basis of the UK Parkinson's Disease Society Brain Bank criteria. LRRK2 carrier status was confirmed by bidirectional Sanger sequencing. We used the PET tracer N-11C-methyl-piperidin-4-yl propionate to scan for acetylcholinesterase activity. The primary outcome measure was rate of acetylcholinesterase hydrolysis, calculated using the striatal input method. We compared acetylcholinesterase hydrolysis rates between groups using ANCOVA, with adjustment for age based on the results of linear regression analysis. Findings: We recruited 14 patients with LRRK2 Parkinson's disease, 16 LRRK2 mutation carriers without Parkinson's disease, eight patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease, and 11 healthy controls. We noted significant between-group differences in rates of acetylcholinesterase hydrolysis in cortical regions (average cortex p=0·009, default mode network-related regions p=0·006, limbic network-related regions p=0·020) and the thalamus (p=0·008). LRRK2 mutation carriers without Parkinson's disease had increased acetylcholinesterase hydrolysis rates compared with healthy controls in the cortex (average cortex, p=0·046). Patients with LRRK2 Parkinson's disease had significantly higher acetylcholinesterase activity in some cortical regions (average cortex p=0·043, default mode network-related regions p=0·021) and the thalamus (thalamus p=0·004) compared with individuals with idiopathic disease. Acetylcholinesterase hydrolysis rates in healthy controls were correlated inversely with age. Interpretation: LRRK2 mutations are associated with significantly increased cholinergic activity in the brain in mutation carriers without Parkinson's disease compared with healthy controls and in LRRK2 mutation carriers with Parkinson's disease compared with individuals with idiopathic disease. Changes in cholinergic activity might represent early and sustained attempts to compensate for LRRK2-related dysfunction, or alteration of acetylcholinesterase in non-neuronal cells. Funding: Michael J Fox Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and Pacific Alzheimer Research Foundation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology