Early neuroinflammation is associated with lower amyloid and tau levels in cognitively normal older adults

Daniel S. Albrecht, Abhay Sagare, Maricarmen Pachicano, Melanie D. Sweeney, Arthur Toga, Berislav Zlokovic, Helena Chui, Elizabeth Joe, Lon Schneider, John C. Morris, Tammie Benzinger, Judy Pa

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CNS inflammation is a key factor in Alzheimer's Disease (AD), but its relation to pathological Aβ, tau, and APOE4 is poorly understood, particularly prior to the onset of cognitive symptoms. To better characterize early relationships between inflammation, APOE4, and AD pathology, we assessed correlations between cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) inflammatory markers and brain levels of Aβ and tau in cognitively normal older adults. Each participant received a lumbar puncture to collect and quantify CSF levels of TNFα, IL-6, IL-8, and IL-10, a T1-weighted MRI, and PET scanning with [18F]flortaucipir (FTP; n = 57), which binds to tau tangles and/or [18F]florbetapir (FBP; n = 58), which binds to Aβ. Parallel voxelwise regressions assessed relationships between each CSF inflammatory marker and FTP and FBP SUVR, as well as APOE4*CSF inflammation interactions. Unexpectedly, we detected significant negative associations between regional Aβ and tau PET uptake and CSF inflammatory markers. For Aβ PET, we detected negative associations with CSF IL-6 and IL-8 in regions known to show early accumulation of Aβ (i.e. lateral and medial frontal lobes). For tau PET, negative relationships were observed with CSF TNFα and IL-8, predominantly in regions known to exhibit early tau accumulation (i.e. medial temporal lobe). In subsequent analyses, significant interactions between APOE4 status and IL-8 on Aβ and tau PET levels were observed in spatially distinct regions from those showing CSF–Aβ/tau relationships. Results from the current cross-sectional study support previous findings that neuroinflammation may be protective against AD pathology at a given stage of the disease, and extend these findings to a cognitively normal aging population. This study provides new insight into a dynamic relationship between neuroinflammation and AD pathology and may have implications for whom and when neuroinflammatory therapies may be appropriate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-307
Number of pages9
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Amyloid-β
  • Chemokine
  • Cytokine
  • Glial activation
  • Neuroinflammation
  • PET imaging
  • Tau


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