Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) can be classified based on the presence of the microtubule-associated protein tau and the TAR DNA binding protein-43 (TDP-43). Future treatments will likely target these proteins, therefore it is important to identify biomarkers to help predict protein biochemistry.
To determine whether there is an MRI signature pattern of tau or TDP-43 using a large cohort of FTLD subjects and to investigate how patterns of atrophy change according to disease severity using a large autopsy-confirmed cohort of FTLD subjects.
Patterns of gray matter loss were assessed using voxel-based morphometry in 37 tau-positive and 44 TDP-43-positive subjects compared to 35 age and gender-matched controls, and compared to each other. Comparisons were also repeated in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) subjects (n = 15 tau-positive and n = 30 TDP-43-positive). Patterns of atrophy were also assessed according to performance on the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale and Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE).
The tau-positive and TDP-43-positive groups showed patterns of frontotemporal gray matter loss compared to controls with no differences observed between the groups, for all subjects and for bvFTD subjects. Patterns of gray matter loss increased in a graded manner by CDR and MMSE with loss in the frontal lobes, insula and hippocampus in mild subjects, spreading to the temporal and parietal cortices and striatum in more advanced disease.
There is no signature pattern of atrophy for tau or TDP-43; however, patterns of atrophy in FTLD progress with measures of clinical disease severity.