Synaptic neurodegeneration is thought to be an early event initiated by soluble ß-amyloid (Aß) aggregates that closely correlates with cognitive decline in Alzheimer disease (AD). Apolipoprotein e4 (APOE4) is the most common genetic risk factor for both familial AD (FAD) and sporadic AD; it accelerates Aß aggregation and selectively impairs glutamate receptor function and synaptic plasticity. However, its molecular mechanisms remain elusive and these synaptic deficits are difficult to monitor. AD- and APOE4-dependent plasma biomarkers have been proposed, but synapse-related plasma biomarkers are lacking. We evaluated neuronal pentraxin 1 (NP1), a potential CNS-derived plasma biomarker of excitatory synaptic pathology.
NP1 is preferentially expressed in brain and involved in glutamate receptor internalization. NP1 is secreted presynaptically induced by Aß oligomers, and implicated in excitatory synaptic and mitochondrial deficits. Levels of NP1 and its fragments were increased in a correlated fashion in both brain and plasma of 7-8?month-old E4FAD mice relative to E3FAD mice. NP1 was also found in exosome preparations and reduced by dietary DHA supplementation. Plasma NP1 was higher in E4FAD+ (APOE4+/+/FAD+/-) relative to E4FAD- (non-carrier; APOE4+/+/FAD-/-) mice, suggesting NP1 is modulated by Aß expression. Finally, relative to normal elderly, plasma NP1 was also elevated in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and elevated further in the subset who progressed to early-stage AD dementia. In those patients, there was a trend towards increased NP1 levels in APOE4 carriers relative to non-carriers.
These findings indicate that NP1 may represent a potential synapse-derived plasma biomarker relevant to early alterations in excitatory synapses in MCI and early-stage AD.