Scientific article
Open access

In vivo human molecular neuroimaging of dopaminergic vulnerability along the Alzheimer's disease phases

Published inAlzheimer's research & therapy, vol. 13, no. 1, 187
Publication date2021-11-12
First online date2021-11-12

Background: Preclinical and pathology evidence suggests an involvement of brain dopamine (DA) circuitry in Alzheimer's disease (AD). We in vivo investigated if, when, and in which target regions [123I]FP-CIT-SPECT regional binding and molecular connectivity are damaged along the AD course.

Methods: We retrospectively selected 16 amyloid-positive subjects with mild cognitive impairment due to AD (AD-MCI), 22 amyloid-positive patients with probable AD dementia (AD-D), and 74 healthy controls, all with available [123I]FP-CIT-SPECT imaging. We tested whether nigrostriatal vs. mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic targets present binding potential loss, via MANCOVA, and alterations in molecular connectivity, via partial correlation analysis. Results were deemed significant at p < 0.05, after Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons.

Results: We found significant reductions of [123I]FP-CIT binding in both AD-MCI and AD-D compared to controls. Binding reductions were prominent in the major targets of the ventrotegmental-mesocorticolimbic pathway, namely the ventral striatum and the hippocampus, in both clinical groups, and in the cingulate gyrus, in patients with dementia only. Within the nigrostriatal projections, only the dorsal caudate nucleus showed reduced [123I]FP-CIT binding, in both groups. Molecular connectivity assessment revealed a widespread loss of inter-connections among subcortical and cortical targets of the mesocorticolimbic network only (poor overlap with the control group as expressed by a Dice coefficient ≤ 0.25) and no alterations of the nigrostriatal network (high overlap with controls, Dice coefficient = 1).

Conclusion: Local- and system-level alterations of the mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic circuitry characterize AD, already in prodromal disease phases. These results might foster new therapeutic strategies for AD. The clinical correlates of these findings deserve to be carefully considered within the emergence of both neuropsychiatric symptoms and cognitive deficits.

  • Biomarker
  • Dopamine
  • Molecular connectivity
  • Substantia nigra
  • Ventral tegmental area
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon
Citation (ISO format)
SALA, Arianna et al. In vivo human molecular neuroimaging of dopaminergic vulnerability along the Alzheimer’s disease phases. In: Alzheimer’s research & therapy, 2021, vol. 13, n° 1, p. 187. doi: 10.1186/s13195-021-00925-1
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ISSN of the journal1758-9193

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