Background: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a clinical syndrome with complex biological determinants, but which in most cases is characterized by TDP-43 pathology. The identification in CSF of a protein signature of TDP-43 network dysfunction would have the potential to inform the identification of new biomarkers and therapeutic targets. Methods: We compared CSF proteomic data from patients with ALS (n = 41), Parkinson's disease (n = 19) and healthy control participants (n = 20). Weighted correlation network analysis was used to identify modules within the CSF protein network and combined with gene ontology enrichment analysis to functionally annotate module proteins. Analysis of module eigenproteins and differential correlation analysis of the CSF protein network was used to compare ALS and Parkinson's disease protein co-correlation with healthy controls. In order to monitor temporal changes in the CSF proteome, we performed longitudinal analysis of the CSF proteome in a subset of ALS patients. Results: Weighted correlation network analysis identified 10 modules, including those enriched for terms involved in gene expression including nucleic acid binding, RNA metabolism and translation; humoral immune system function, including complement pathways; membrane proteins, axonal outgrowth and adherence; and glutamatergic synapses. Immune system module eigenproteins were increased in ALS, whilst axonal module eigenproteins were decreased in ALS. The 19 altered protein correlations in ALS were enriched for gene expression (OR 3.05, p = 0.017) and membrane protein modules (OR 17.48, p = 0.011), including intramodular hub proteins previously identified as TDP-43 interactors. Proteins decreasing over longitudinal analysis ALS were enriched in glutamatergic synapse and axonal outgrowth modules. Protein correlation network disruptions in Parkinson's disease showed no module enrichment. Conclusions: Alterations in the co-correlation network in CSF samples identified a set of pathways known to be associated with TDP-43 dysfunction in the pathogenesis of ALS, with important implications for therapeutic targeting and biomarker development.
WGCNA, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, biomarker, cerebrospinal fluid, motor neuron disease, network analysis, proteomics, proteomics & bioinformatics