A data-driven study of Alzheimer's disease related amyloid and tau pathology progression.

Aksman LM, Oxtoby NP, Scelsi MA, Wijeratne PA, Young AL, Lopes Alves I, Collij LE, Vogel JW, Barkhof F, Alexander DC, Altmann A, ADNI

Brain - (-) - [2023-07-11; online 2023-07-11]

Amyloid-beta is thought to facilitate the spread of tau throughout the neocortex in Alzheimer's disease, though how this occurs is not well understood. This is because of the spatial discordance between amyloid-beta, which accumulates in the neocortex, and tau, which accumulates in the medial temporal lobe during aging. There is evidence that in some cases amyloid-beta-independent tau spreads beyond the medial temporal lobe where it may interact with neocortical amyloid-beta. This suggests that there may be multiple distinct spatiotemporal subtypes of Alzheimer's-related protein aggregation, with potentially different demographic and genetic risk profiles. We investigated this hypothesis, applying data-driven disease progression subtyping models to post-mortem neuropathology and in vivo PET based measures from two large observational studies: the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative and the Religious Orders Study and Rush Memory and Aging Project. We consistently identified 'amyloid-first' and 'tau-first' subtypes using cross-sectional information from both studies. In the amyloid-first subtype, extensive neocortical amyloid-beta precedes the spread of tau beyond the medial temporal lobe, while in the tau-first subtype mild tau accumulates in medial temporal and neocortical areas prior to interacting with amyloid-beta. As expected, we found a higher prevalence of the amyloid-first subtype among apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 allele carriers while the tau-first subtype was more common among APOE ε4 non-carriers. Within tau-first APOE ε4 carriers, we found an increased rate of amyloid-beta accumulation (via longitudinal amyloid PET), suggesting that this rare group may belong within the Alzheimer's disease continuum. We also found that tau-first APOE ε4 carriers had several fewer years of education than other groups, suggesting a role for modifiable risk factors in facilitating amyloid-beta-independent tau. Tau-first APOE ε4 non-carriers, in contrast, recapitulated many of the features of Primary Age-related Tauopathy. The rate of longitudinal amyloid-beta and tau accumulation (both measured via PET) within this group did not differ from normal aging, supporting the distinction of Primary Age-related Tauopathy from Alzheimer's disease. We also found reduced longitudinal subtype consistency within tau-first APOE ε4 non-carriers, suggesting additional heterogeneity within this group. Our findings support the idea that amyloid-beta and tau may begin as independent processes in spatially disconnected regions, with widespread neocortical tau resulting from the local interaction of amyloid-beta and tau. The site of this interaction may be subtype-dependent: medial temporal lobe in amyloid-first, neocortex in tau-first. These insights into the dynamics of amyloid-beta and tau may inform research and clinical trials that target these pathologies.

DDLS Fellow

Jacob W Vogel

PubMed 37433038

DOI 10.1093/brain/awad232

Crossref 10.1093/brain/awad232

pii: 7222857

Publications 9.5.0