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Imidazoline 2 binding sites reflecting astroglia pathology in Parkinson's disease: an in vivo11C-BU99008 PET study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Heather Wilson, Georgios Dervenoulas, Gennaro Pagano, Robin J Tyacke, Sotirios Polychronis , Jim Myers, Roger N. Gunn, Eugenii Rabiner, David Nutt, Marios Politis

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3116-3128
Number of pages13
Issue number10
Early online date26 Aug 2019
Accepted/In press4 Jul 2019
E-pub ahead of print26 Aug 2019
Published1 Oct 2019


King's Authors


Astroglia are multifunctional cells that regulate neuroinflammation and maintain homeostasis within the brain. Astroglial a-synuclein-positive cytoplasmic accumulations have been shown post-mortem in patients with Parkinson's disease and therefore astroglia may play an important role in the initiation and progression of Parkinson's disease. Imidazoline 2 binding sites are expressed on activated astroglia in the cortex, hippocampus, basal ganglia and brainstem; therefore, by measuring imidazoline 2 binding site levels we can indirectly evaluate astrogliosis in patients with Parkinson's disease. Here, we aimed to evaluate the role of astroglia activation in vivo in patients with Parkinson's disease using 11C-BU99008 PET, a novel radioligand with high specificity and selectivity for imidazoline 2 binding sites. Twenty-two patients with Parkinson's disease and 14 healthy control subjects underwent 3 T MRI and a 120-min 11C-BU99008 PET scan with volume of distribution (V T) estimated using a two-tissue compartmental model with a metabolite corrected arterial plasma input function. Parkinson's disease patients were stratified into early (n = 8) and moderate/advanced (n = 14) groups according to disease stage. In early Parkinson's disease, increased 11C-BU99008 V T uptake was observed in frontal (P = 0.022), temporal (P = 0.02), parietal (P = 0.026) and occipital (P = 0.047) cortical regions compared with healthy controls. The greatest 11C-BU99008 V T increase in patients with early Parkinson's disease was observed in the brainstem (52%; P = 0.018). In patients with moderate/advanced Parkinson's disease, loss of 11C-BU99008 V T was observed across frontal (P = 0.002), temporal (P < 0.001), parietal (P = 0.039), occipital (P = 0.024), and insula (P < 0.001) cortices; and in the subcortical regions of caudate (P < 0.001), putamen (P < 0.001) and thalamus (P < 0.001); and in the brainstem (P = 0.018) compared with healthy controls. In patients with Parkinson's disease, loss of 11C-BU99008 V T in cortical regions, striatum, thalamus and brainstem correlated with longer disease duration (P < 0.05) and higher disease burden scores, measured with Movement Disorder Society Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (P < 0.05). In the subgroup of patients with moderate/advanced Parkinson's disease, loss of 11C-BU99008 V T in the frontal (r = 0.79; P = 0.001), temporal (r = 0.74; P = 0.002) and parietal (r = 0.89; P < 0.001) cortex correlated with global cognitive impairment. This study demonstrates in vivo the role of astroglia in the initiation and progression of Parkinson's disease. Reactive astroglia observed early in Parkinson's disease could reflect a neuroprotective compensatory mechanisms and pro-inflammatory upregulation in response to a-synuclein accumulation. However, as the disease progresses and significant neurodegeneration occurs, astroglia lose their reactive function and such loss in the cortex has clinical relevance in the development of cognitive impairment.

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