Neurofilament light is a well-established marker of both acute and chronic neuronal damage and is increased in multiple neurodegenerative diseases. However, the protein is not well characterized in brain tissue or body fluids, and it is unknown what neurofilament light species are detected by commercial assays and whether additional species exist. We developed an immunoprecipitation-mass spectrometry assay using custom antibodies targeting various neurofilament light domains, including antibodies targeting Coil 1A/1B of the rod domain (HJ30.13), Coil 2B of the rod domain (HJ30.4) and the tail region (HJ30.11). We utilized our assay to characterize neurofilament light in brain tissue and CSF of individuals with Alzheimer's disease dementia and healthy controls. We then validated a quantitative version of our assay and measured neurofilament light concentrations using both our quantitative immunoprecipitation-mass spectrometry assay and the commercially available immunoassay from Uman diagnostics in individuals with and without Alzheimer's disease dementia. Our validation cohort included CSF samples from 30 symptomatic amyloid-positive participants, 16 asymptomatic amyloid-positive participants, 10 symptomatic amyloid-negative participants and 25 amyloid-negative controls. We identified at least three major neurofilament light species in CSF, including N-terminal and C-terminal truncations, and a C-terminal fragment containing the tail domain. No full-length neurofilament light was identified in CSF. This contrasts with brain tissue, which contained mostly full-length neurofilament and a C-terminal tail domain fragment. We observed an increase in neurofilament light concentrations in individuals with Alzheimer's disease compared with healthy controls, with larger differences for some neurofilament light species than for others. The largest differences were observed for neurofilament light fragments including NfL165 (in Coil 1B), NfL324 (in Coil 2B) and NfL530 (in the C-terminal tail domain). The Uman immunoassay correlated most with NfL324. This study provides a comprehensive evaluation of neurofilament light in brain and CSF and enables future investigations of neurofilament light biology and utility as a biomarker.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfcac045
JournalBrain Communications
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Immunoprecipitation-mass spectrometry
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Neurofilament light


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