Purpose: Glial activation is one of the earliest mechanisms to be altered in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) relates to reactive astrogliosis and can be measured in both cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and blood. Plasma GFAP has been suggested to become altered earlier in AD than its CSF counterpart. Although astrocytes consume approximately half of the glucose-derived energy in the brain, the relationship between reactive astrogliosis and cerebral glucose metabolism is poorly understood. Here, we aimed to investigate the association between fluorodeoxyglucose ([18F]FDG) uptake and reactive astrogliosis, by means of GFAP quantified in both plasma and CSF for the same participants.
Methods: We included 314 cognitively unimpaired participants from the ALFA + cohort, 112 of whom were amyloid-β (Aβ) positive. Associations between GFAP markers and [18F]FDG uptake were studied. We also investigated whether these associations were modified by Aβ and tau status (AT stages).
Results: Plasma GFAP was positively associated with glucose consumption in the whole brain, while CSF GFAP associations with [18F]FDG uptake were only observed in specific smaller areas like temporal pole and superior temporal lobe. These associations persisted when accounting for biomarkers of Aβ pathology but became negative in Aβ-positive and tau-positive participants (A + T +) in similar areas of AD-related hypometabolism.
Conclusions: Higher astrocytic reactivity, probably in response to early AD pathological changes, is related to higher glucose consumption. With the onset of tau pathology, the observed uncoupling between astrocytic biomarkers and glucose consumption might be indicative of a failure to sustain the higher energetic demands required by reactive astrocytes.