. High-molecular-weight beta-amyloid oligomers are elevated in cerebrospinal fluid of Alzheimer patients. FASEB J. 2010 Aug;24(8):2716-26. PubMed.


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  1. For the first time an ELISA has been developed that is sensitive enough for detecting high-molecular-weight oligomers in human CSF, which might be an important biomarker for Alzheimer disease (AD).

    Soluble forms of Aβ correlate better with disease severity than insoluble fibrils (McLean et al., 1999; Näslund et al., 2000). Among the prefibrillar intermediate Aβ species, several oligomeric forms of various molecular sizes have been identified. Some of these have been shown to elicit adverse biological effects both in vitro and in vivo (Walsh et al., 2002), suggesting that they play a central role in the pathogenesis. While an oligomeric 12-mer, Aβ*56, has been claimed to be especially toxic (Lesné et al 2006), other researchers have put the dimer in focus (Shankar et al., 2008). We have previously identified a pathogenic mutation located within the Aβ domain, the Arctic mutation causing early onset Alzheimer disease. The mutation enhances the formation of protofibrils, suggesting that this Aβ species is pathogenic (Nilsberth et al., 2001).

    As part of routine diagnostic procedures, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is today often analyzed for levels of Aβ42, tau and phospho-tau, where decreased Aβ42 and increased tau and/or phospho-tau in CSF are indicative of AD. These measures are good predictors for future conversion to AD among subjects with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) (Hansson et al., 2006). However, these biomarkers are neither suitable to follow disease progression nor to monitor drug intervention due to the lack of correlation with disease severity. Thus, we need novel biomarkers that better reflect the continuous disease process and correlate with disease severity.

    Preliminary reports indicate that the concentration of Aβ oligomers in human CSF is very low and close to the detection limit of assays, even using new types of methods including PCR-based amplification steps (Georganopoulou et al., 2005). The presence of aggregated species of Aβ in CSF was demonstrated by us with an indirect method. We calculated an oligomer ratio and could show that this ratio was higher in AD and MCI than in healthy controls (Englund et al., 2009).

    Indirect evidence suggests that the Aβ protofibril could be such a biomarker. In a recent study we demonstrated that Aβ protofibril levels in tgAPP-ArcSwe mice were inversely correlated with spatial learning. In contrast, total Aβ levels of the same mouse brains did not correlate to decreased cognition (Lord et al., 2009). Thus, these data suggest that Aβ protofibrils could be a marker for disease progression.

    Scientists at Takeda Pharmaceutical Company and academic collaborators have now been able to develop a sensitive ELISA for measuring high-molecular-weight Aβ oligomers, i.e., protofibrils, in human CSF. Using the BAN50 antibody as capture and Fab' fragment of the same antibody as detection, their ELISA specifically detects oligomers in the range of 40-200 kDa. In order to get signals from human CSF samples, sensitive chemiluminescent substrate was used instead of the more commonly used colorimetric TMB substrate. However, the standard curve was difficult to interpret for us, and it is surprising that the content of large oligomers in the oligomer mixture is as low as When we prepare large size oligomers, i.e., protofibrils, we usually get 80-90 percent protofibrils and 10-20 percent monomers and low-molecular-weight species. In order to be able to reliably quantify the oligomers present in CSF, the concentration of the high molecular SEC fraction of the synthetic oligomer preparation should be determined and then used as a reference in the ELISA.

    Still, significantly higher levels of protofibrils were found in CSF from AD and MCI as compared to healthy controls, and even more intriguing, there was an inverse correlation between MMSE and the signal in the ELISA; i.e., levels of protofibrils were higher in more demented cases. If these findings can be replicated, the present paper represents a breakthrough in the field of AD biomarkers.


    . Oligomerization partially explains the lowering of Abeta42 in Alzheimer's disease cerebrospinal fluid. Neurodegener Dis. 2009;6(4):139-47. PubMed.

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  2. An ELISA-based biochemical measurement of oligomeric Aβ (oAβ) species from human fluids such as CSF has been enthusiastically anticipated in the field, in light of extensive in vitro and in vivo studies of neurotoxic oAβ and its direct and indirect effects on synaptic function. Fukumoto et al. have used an N-terminal specific human Aβ antibody, BAN50, as both a capture and a reporter antibody to measure high-molecular-weight oAβ, a similar approach to a previous study by us that used 82E1 and 3D6 (against N-terminus of human Aβ) to measure low-molecular-weight oAβs by ELISA.

    The BAN50-BAN50 ELISA-based measurement of oAβ levels in CSF provides a new readout to separate the control from AD subjects/MCI converters (MCI-C). This is a nice addition to the widely reported approach that quantifies CSF Aβ42, tau, and their ratios. Since a reduction of monomeric Aβ42 in CSF has been associated with AD subjects, it will be critical to understand whether it is due to a deposition of Aβ42 in brains or a formation of high-molecular-weight oAβ (with a low or undetectable molar concentration in CSF measured by monomeric Aβ42 ELISA), or both. Snider and Holtzman have reported a rapid dementia progression in subjects with lower baseline CSF monomeric Aβ42 levels, and the current study reveals that the levels of oAβ in CSF have a significant negative correlation with the MMSE scores of the AD/MCI-C patients. As the report states, this could be a surrogate marker to reflect disease severity.

    A battery of CSF-based biomarkers would be an invaluable tool for selecting and monitoring subjects enrolled in clinical trials that target amyloid. While measuring CSF Aβ42 and tau/phosphorylated tau helps identify antecedent AD/MCI subjects, the sensitivity and specificity of these assays are neither sufficient for monitoring disease progression nor for predicting drug outcome afterwards.

    On the other hand, the levels of CSF oAβ, quantified by BAN50-BAN50 ELISA seem to correlate negatively with the MMSE scores, which holds promise for foreseeing any bioefficacy of drugs in clinical trials. This goal could be achieved once the assay is validated in future studies with a larger number of subjects; e.g., CSF samples collected for the ADNI study could be readily measured by BAN50-BAN50 ELISA and oAβ levels compared to monomeric Aβ42 levels from the same subjects. Longitudinal studies on MCI subjects enrolled in the ADNI study will provide valuable information on potential correlation between the levels of CSF oAβ and disease progression. These MCI subjects from the ADNI study should be more representative of the general population, compared to those MCI converters included in the current report; in this report, two out of seven MCI converters carry the ApoE2 allele, which represents unusually high occurrence.

    Following the temporal sequence of Aβ conversion from monomeric to oligomeric forms, ELISA-based measurement of monomeric Aβ42 (and tau) in CSF will provide a snapshot of pathogenic Aβ42 in CNS even before the disease onset, and quantification of CSF Aβ oligomers may illustrate the ongoing disease progression. Both methods are not sufficient but necessary to capture amyloidogenesis at the molecular level in brains of AD/MCI patients, especially to follow/monitor patients being treated with amyloid directed/targeting therapies.


    . A specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for measuring beta-amyloid protein oligomers in human plasma and brain tissue of patients with Alzheimer disease. Arch Neurol. 2009 Feb;66(2):190-9. PubMed.

    . Cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers and rate of cognitive decline in very mild dementia of the Alzheimer type. Arch Neurol. 2009 May;66(5):638-45. PubMed.

  3. Several lines of evidence suggest that Aβ plays a central role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease (AD). Not only Aβ fibrils, but also small soluble Aβ oligomers in particular are suspected to be the major toxic species responsible for disease development and progression. Therefore, Aβ oligomers and aggregates might be an interesting disease marker for AD and a method for sensitive and specific detection of such oligomers in body fluids is highly desired.

    Fukumoto et al. developed a novel ELISA specific for high molecular weight (HMW) Aβ oligomers (40-200 kDa) and detected significantly higher amounts of HMW Aβ oligomers in CSF samples from AD and MCI patients as compared to age matched controls. Additionally, they showed a negative correlation with Mini-Mental state examination scores in the AD/MCI group.

    These results further strengthen the theory that Aβ oligomers might be a valuable marker for AD diagnosis and for therapy monitoring as well. Recently, several authors published data gained by different methods showing increased Aβ oligomer/aggregate levels in CSF samples of AD patients vs. controls (1-6). Other authors even developed methods for the detection of Aβ oligomers in blood, but actually no trend can be predicted concerning its diagnostic power (7,8).

    In future, a lot of samples will have to be measured with different assay systems to obtain reliable results. Parallel work is needed to elucidate the nature of the Aβ oligomers relevant to the disease as well as to improve the technical robustness of the applied quantification methods. In addition, the question needs to be addressed, whether methods based on antibodies specific for a certain kind of Aβ oligomer or methods that are able to quantify all kinds of Aβ oligomers (1,4-6) are suitable to deliver the most valuable biomarker readout. Possibly, a combination of these methods or a completely new so far unknown approach will make it at the end into clinical use. In any case, all these approaches benefit from the findings reported by Fukumoto et al. confirming that any effort towards oligomer based diagnostics in neurodegenerative diseases is worth it.


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