The diagnosis of Parkinsonian disorders is currently based on clinical criteria, which have limited sensitivity until most dopaminergic neurons are lost. Here we show that cerebrospinal fluid levels of DOPA decarboxylase (DDC) (also known as aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase) can accurately identify patients with Lewy body disease (LBD) (area under the curve (AUC) = 0.89; PFDR = 2.6 × 10-13) and are associated with worse cognitive performance (P < 0.05). We also found that DDC can detect preclinical LBD stages in clinically unimpaired individuals with a positive seed amplification α-synuclein assay (AUC = 0.81, P = 1.0 × 10-5) and that this biomarker could predict progression to clinical LBD over a 3-year period in preclinical cases (hazard ratio = 3.7 per s.d. change, confidence interval = 1.1-12.7). Moreover, DDC levels were also increased in atypical Parkinsonian disorders but not in non-Parkinsonian neurodegenerative disorders. These cerebrospinal fluid results were replicated in an independent cohort, where we also found that DDC levels in plasma could identify both LBD and atypical Parkinsonian disorders (AUC = 0.92, P = 1.3 × 10-14). Our results show that DDC might have a future role in clinical practice as a biomarker of dopaminergic dysfunction to detect Parkinsonian disorders even during the preclinical disease stages and predict their progression to clinical LBD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1201–1209
Number of pages9
JournalNature Aging
Issue number10
Early online date2023 Sept 18
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Neurosciences

Free keywords

  • Ageing
  • Diagnostic markers
  • Movement disorders


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