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Journal Article

Tau accumulation is associated with dopamine deficiency in vivo in four-repeat tauopathies


Schroeter,  Matthias L.       
Clinic for Cognitive Neurology, University of Leipzig, Germany;
Leipzig Research Center for Civilization Diseases (LIFE), University of Leipzig, Germany;
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Ferschmann, C., Messerschmidt, K., Gnörich, J., Barthel, H., Marek, K., Palleis, C., et al. (2024). Tau accumulation is associated with dopamine deficiency in vivo in four-repeat tauopathies. European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, 51(7), 1909-1922. doi:10.1007/s00259-024-06637-6.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000E-7732-4
Purpose: We hypothesized that severe tau burden in brain regions involved in direct or indirect pathways of the basal ganglia correlate with more severe striatal dopamine deficiency in four-repeat (4R) tauopathies. Therefore, we correlated [18F]PI-2620 tau-positron-emission-tomography (PET) imaging with [123I]-Ioflupane single-photon-emission-computed tomography (SPECT) for dopamine transporter (DaT) availability.

Methods: Thirty-eight patients with clinically diagnosed 4R-tauopathies (21 male; 69.0 ± 8.5 years) and 15 patients with clinically diagnosed α-synucleinopathies (8 male; 66.1 ± 10.3 years) who underwent [18F]PI-2620 tau-PET and DaT-SPECT imaging with a time gap of 3 ± 5 months were evaluated. Regional Tau-PET signals and DaT availability as well as their principal components were correlated in patients with 4R-tauopathies and α-synucleinopathies. Both biomarkers and the residuals of their association were correlated with clinical severity scores in 4R-tauopathies.

Results: In patients with 4R-tauopathies, [18F]PI-2620 binding in basal ganglia and midbrain regions was negatively associated with striatal DaT availability (i.e. globus pallidus internus and putamen (β = - 0.464, p = 0.006, Durbin-Watson statistics = 1.824) in a multiple regression model. Contrarily, [18F]PI-2620 binding in the dentate nucleus showed no significant regression factor with DaT availability in the striatum (β = 0.078, p = 0.662, Durbin-Watson statistics = 1.686). Patients with α-synucleinopathies did not indicate any regional associations between [18F]PI-2620-binding and DaT availability. Higher DaT-SPECT binding relative to tau burden was associated with better clinical performance (β = - 0.522, p = 0.011, Durbin-Watson statistics = 2.663) in patients with 4R-tauopathies.

Conclusion: Tau burden in brain regions involved in dopaminergic pathways is associated with aggravated dopaminergic dysfunction in patients with clinically diagnosed primary tauopathies. The ability to sustain dopamine transmission despite tau accumulation may preserve motor function.