Although neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) are common and severely affect older people with cognitive decline, little is known about their underlying molecular mechanisms and relationships with Alzheimer's disease (AD). The aim of this study was to identify and characterize cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) proteome alterations related to NPS. In a longitudinally followed-up cohort of subjects with normal cognition and patients with cognitive impairment (MCI and mild dementia) from a memory clinic setting, we quantified a panel of 790 proteins in CSF using an untargeted shotgun proteomic workflow. Regression models and pathway enrichment analysis were used to investigate protein alterations related to NPS, and to explore relationships with AD pathology and cognitive decline at follow-up visits. Regression analysis selected 27 CSF proteins associated with NPS. These associations were independent of the presence of cerebral AD pathology (defined as CSF p-tau181/Aβ1-42 > 0.0779, center cutoff). Gene ontology enrichment showed abundance alterations of proteins related to cell adhesion, immune response, and lipid metabolism, among others, in relation to NPS. Out of the selected proteins, three were associated with accelerated cognitive decline at follow-up visits after controlling for possible confounders. Specific CSF proteome alterations underlying NPS may both represent pathophysiological processes independent from AD and accelerate clinical disease progression.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; cognitive decline; proteome