TAR DNA-Binding Protein 43 Is Associated with Rate of Memory, Functional and Global Cognitive Decline in the Decade Prior to Death

Marina Buciuc, Nirubol Tosakulwong, Mary M. Machulda, Jennifer L. Whitwell, Stephen D. Weigand, Melissa E. Murray, R. Ross Reichard, Joseph E. Parisi, Dennis W. Dickson, Bradley F. Boeve, David S. Knopman, Ronald C. Petersen, Keith A. Josephs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Transactive response DNA-binding protein of 43kDa (TDP-43) is associated with memory impairment and overall cognitive decline. It is unclear how TDP-43 contributes to the rate of clinical decline. Objective: To determine whether cross-sectional and longitudinal cognitive and functional decline are associated with anatomical distribution of TDP-43 in the brain. Methods: Longitudinal clinical-neuropathologic autopsy cohort study of 385 initially cognitively normal/mildly impaired older adults prospectively followed until death. We investigated how TDP-43, amyloid-β (Aβ), tau neurofibrillary tangles (NFT), Lewy body disease (LBD), age, sex, and genetics are associated with clinical scores and rates of their longitudinal decline. Results: Of 385 participants, 260 (68%) had no TDP-43, 32 (8%) had TDP-43 limited to amygdala, and 93 (24%) had TDP-43 in the hippocampus and beyond. Higher TDP-43 and Braak NFT stages independently were associated with faster decline in global cognition, functional performance measured by Clinical Dementia Rating scale, and naming and episodic memory, whereas older age was associated with slower rate of cognitive, psychiatric, and functional decline. Cross-sectionally the following associations were found: higher TDP-43 and Braak NFT-worse performance; higher Aβ burden-worse global cognition, more behavioral changes, the latter also with higher LBD; older age-worse naming, lower frequency of behavioral changes; female sex-more impaired naming and better preserved episodic memory. There were no genetic associations. Conclusion: The association of TDP-43 distribution with decline in cognitive and functional performance suggests that TDP-43 is playing a role in the clinical progression to dementia. Further characterization of clinical features associated with TDP-43 can facilitate establishment of antemortem diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)683-693
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • TDP-43 proteinopathy
  • clinical decline
  • dementia
  • neuropsychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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