Longitudinal Synaptic Loss in Primary Tauopathies: An In Vivo [11 C]UCB-J Positron Emission Tomography Study.


BACKGROUND: Synaptic loss is characteristic of many neurodegenerative diseases; it occurs early and is strongly related to functional deficits. OBJECTIVE: In this longitudinal observational study, we determine the rate at which synaptic density is reduced in the primary tauopathies of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and corticobasal degeneration (CBD), and we test the relationship with disease progression. METHODS: Our cross-sectional cohort included 32 participants with probable PSP and 16 with probable CBD (all amyloid-negative corticobasal syndrome), recruited from tertiary care centers in the United Kingdom, and 33 sex- and age-matched healthy control subjects. Synaptic density was estimated by positron emission tomography imaging with the radioligand [11 C]UCB-J that binds synaptic vesicle 2A. Clinical severity and cognition were assessed by the PSP Rating Scale and the Addenbrooke's cognitive examination. Regional [11 C]UCB-J nondisplaceable binding potential was estimated in Hammersmith Atlas regions of interest. Twenty-two participants with PSP/CBD had a follow-up [11 C]UCB-J positron emission tomography scan after 1 year. We calculated the annualized change in [11 C]UCB-J nondisplaceable binding potential and correlated this with the change in clinical severity. RESULTS: We found significant annual synaptic loss within the frontal lobe (-3.5%, P = 0.03) and the right caudate (-3.9%, P = 0.046). The degree of longitudinal synaptic loss within the frontal lobe correlated with the rate of change in the PSP Rating Scale (R = 0.47, P = 0.03) and cognition (Addenbrooke's Cognitive Examination-Revised, R = -0.62, P = 0.003). CONCLUSIONS: We provide in vivo evidence for rapid progressive synaptic loss, correlating with clinical progression in primary tauopathies. Synaptic loss may be an important therapeutic target and outcome variable for early-phase clinical trials of disease-modifying treatments. © 2023 The Authors. Movement Disorders published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.