Heterogeneity in progression to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) poses challenges for both clinical prognosis and clinical trial implementation. Multiple AD-related subtypes have previously been identified, suggesting differences in receptivity to drug interventions. We identified early differences in preclinical AD biomarkers, assessed patterns for developing preclinical AD across the amyloid-tau-(neurodegeneration) [AT(N)] framework, and considered potential sources of difference by analysing the CSF proteome. Participants (n = 10) enrolled in longitudinal studies at the Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center completed four or more lumbar punctures. These individuals were cognitively normal at baseline. Cerebrospinal fluid measures of amyloid-β (Aβ)42, phosphorylated tau (pTau181), and neurofilament light chain (NfL) as well as proteomics values were evaluated. Imaging biomarkers, including PET amyloid and tau, and structural MRI, were repeatedly obtained when available. Individuals were staged according to the amyloid-tau-(neurodegeneration) framework. Growth mixture modelling, an unsupervised clustering technique, identified three patterns of biomarker progression as measured by CSF pTau181 and Aβ42. Two groups (AD Biomarker Positive and Intermediate AD Biomarker) showed distinct progression from normal biomarker status to having biomarkers consistent with preclinical AD. A third group (AD Biomarker Negative) did not develop abnormal AD biomarkers over time. Participants grouped by CSF trajectories were re-classified using only proteomic profiles (AUCADBiomarker Positive versus AD BiomarkerNegative = 0.857, AUCAD Biomarker Positive versus Intermediate AD Biomarkers = 0.525, AUCIntermediate AD Biomarkers versus AD Biomarker Negative = 0.952). We highlight heterogeneity in the development of AD biomarkers in cognitively normal individuals. We identified some individuals who became amyloid positive before the age of 50 years. A second group, Intermediate AD Biomarkers, developed elevated CSF ptau181 significantly before becoming amyloid positive. A third group were AD Biomarker Negative over repeated testing. Our results could influence the selection of participants for specific treatments (e.g. amyloid-reducing versus other agents) in clinical trials. CSF proteome analysis highlighted additional non-AT(N) biomarkers for potential therapies, including blood–brain barrier-, vascular-, immune-, and neuroinflammatory-related targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2944-2956
Number of pages13
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2023


  • Alzheimer disease
  • biomarkers
  • heterogeneity
  • machine learning
  • proteome


Dive into the research topics of 'Proteomic clusters underlie heterogeneity in preclinical Alzheimer’s disease progression'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this