Elevated CSF and plasma complement proteins in genetic frontotemporal dementia: results from the GENFI study

Emma L. van der Ende, Carolin Heller, Genetic Frontotemporal dementia Initiative (GENFI), Aitana Sogorb-Esteve, Imogen J. Swift, David McFall, Georgia Peakman, Arabella Bouzigues, Jackie M. Poos, Lize C. Jiskoot, Jessica L. Panman, Janne M. Papma, Lieke H. Meeter, Elise G.P. Dopper, Martina Bocchetta, Emily Todd, David Cash, Caroline Graff, Matthis Synofzik, Fermin MorenoElizabeth Finger, Raquel Sanchez-Valle, Rik Vandenberghe, Robert Laforce, Mario Masellis, Maria Carmela Tartaglia, James B. Rowe, Chris Butler, Simon Ducharme, Alexander Gerhard, Adrian Danek, Johannes Levin, Yolande A.L. Pijnenburg, Markus Otto, Barbara Borroni, Fabrizio Tagliavini, Alexandre de Mendonça, Isabel Santana, Daniela Galimberti, Sandro Sorbi, Henrik Zetterberg, Eric Huang, John C. van Swieten, Jonathan D. Rohrer, Harro Seelaar*

*Corresponding author for this work

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BACKGROUND: Neuroinflammation is emerging as an important pathological process in frontotemporal dementia (FTD), but biomarkers are lacking. We aimed to determine the value of complement proteins, which are key components of innate immunity, as biomarkers in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and plasma of presymptomatic and symptomatic genetic FTD mutation carriers. METHODS: We measured the complement proteins C1q and C3b in CSF by ELISAs in 224 presymptomatic and symptomatic GRN, C9orf72 or MAPT mutation carriers and non-carriers participating in the Genetic Frontotemporal Dementia Initiative (GENFI), a multicentre cohort study. Next, we used multiplex immunoassays to measure a panel of 14 complement proteins in plasma of 431 GENFI participants. We correlated complement protein levels with corresponding clinical and neuroimaging data, neurofilament light chain (NfL) and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP). RESULTS: CSF C1q and C3b, as well as plasma C2 and C3, were elevated in symptomatic mutation carriers compared to presymptomatic carriers and non-carriers. In genetic subgroup analyses, these differences remained statistically significant for C9orf72 mutation carriers. In presymptomatic carriers, several complement proteins correlated negatively with grey matter volume of FTD-related regions and positively with NfL and GFAP. In symptomatic carriers, correlations were additionally observed with disease duration and with Mini Mental State Examination and Clinical Dementia Rating scale® plus NACC Frontotemporal lobar degeneration sum of boxes scores. CONCLUSIONS: Elevated levels of CSF C1q and C3b, as well as plasma C2 and C3, demonstrate the presence of complement activation in the symptomatic stage of genetic FTD. Intriguingly, correlations with several disease measures in presymptomatic carriers suggest that complement protein levels might increase before symptom onset. Although the overlap between groups precludes their use as diagnostic markers, further research is needed to determine their potential to monitor dysregulation of the complement system in FTD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number217
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

on behalf of the Genetic Frontotemporal Dementia Initiative (GENFI)

This study was supported in the Netherlands by Memorabel grants from Deltaplan Dementie (ZonMw and Alzheimer Nederland; grant numbers 733050813, 733050103, 733050513), the Bluefield Project to Cure Frontotemporal Dementia, the Dioraphte foundation (grant number 1402 1300), and the European Joint Programme—Neurodegenerative Disease Research and the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (PreFrontALS: 733051042, RiMod-FTD: 733051024); in Belgium by the Mady Browaeys Fonds voor Onderzoek naar Frontotemporale Degeneratie; in the UK by the MRC UK GENFI grant (MR/M023664/1) and the JPND GENFI-PROX grant (2019-02248); JDR is supported by an MRC Clinician Scientist Fellowship (MR/M008525/1) and has received funding from the NIHR Rare Disease Translational Research Collaboration (BRC149/NS/MH); ASE supported by the UK Dementia Research Institute which receives its funding from DRI Ltd, funded by the UK Medical Research Council, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK; IJS is supported by the Alzheimer’s Association; JBR is supported by the Wellcome Trust (103838); in Spain by the Fundació Marató de TV3 (20143810 to RSV); in Germany by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) under Germany’s Excellence Strategy within the framework of the Munich Cluster for Systems Neurology (EXC 2145 SyNergy—ID 390857198) and by grant 779357 “Solve-RD” from the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (to MS); in Sweden by grants from the Swedish FTD Initiative funded by the Schörling Foundation, grants from JPND PreFrontALS Swedish Research Council (VR) 529–2014-7504, Swedish Research Council (VR) 2015–02926, Swedish Research Council (VR) 2018–02754, Swedish Brain Foundation, Swedish Alzheimer Foundation, Stockholm County Council ALF, Swedish Demensfonden, Stohnes foundation, Gamla Tjänarinnor, Karolinska Institutet Doctoral Funding, and StratNeuro. HZ is a Wallenberg Scholar.

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