Plasma NfL, clinical subtypes and motor progression in Parkinson's disease

Andrea Pilotto*, Alberto Imarisio, Francesca Conforti, Andrea Scalvini, Stefano Masciocchi, Sara Nocivelli, Rosanna Turrone, Stefano Gipponi, Elisabetta Cottini, Barbara Borroni, Maria Cristina Rizzetti, Marina Pizzi, Laura Bonanni, Andrea Sturchio, Alberto J. Espay, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicholas J. Ashton, Abdul Hye, Alessandro Padovani

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: neurofilament light chain (NfL) levels have been proposed as reliable biomarkers of neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease (PD) but the relationship between plasma NfL, clinical subtypes of PD and motor progression is still debated. Methods: plasma NfL concentration was measured in 45 healthy controls and consecutive 92 PD patients who underwent an extensive motor and non-motor assessment at baseline and after 2 years of follow-up. PD malignant phenotype was defined as the combination of at least two out of cognitive impairment, orthostatic hypotension and REM sleep behavior disorder. PD patients were divided according to the age-adjusted cut-offs of plasma NfL levels into high and normal NfL (H-NfL and N-NfL, respectively). A multivariable linear regression model was used to assess the value of plasma NfL as predictor of 2-years progression in PD. Results: NfL was higher in PD patients than in controls (p = 0.037). H-NfL (n = 16) group exhibited more severe motor and non-motor symptoms, higher prevalence of malignant phenotype and worse motor progression (MDS-UPDRS-III 11.3 vs 0.7 points, p = 0.003) compared to N-NfL group (n = 76). In linear regression analyses plasma NfL emerged as the best predictor of 2-year motor progression compared to age, sex, disease duration, baseline motor/non-motor variables. Conclusion: increased plasma NfL concentration is associated with malignant PD phenotype and faster motor progression. These findings support the role of NfL assessment as a useful measure for stratifying patients with different baseline slopes of decline in future clinical trials of putative disease-modifying treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-47
Number of pages7
JournalParkinsonism and Related Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Biomarkers
  • Neurofilament light chain
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Phenotypes
  • Progression


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