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Ann Neurol. 2006 Sep;60(3):335-45.

Unexpected abundance of pathological tau in progressive supranuclear palsy white matter.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4283, USA.



To investigate whether biochemical insoluble tau with 4 (4R) and/or 3 (3R) microtubule-binding repeats accumulate in white as well as gray matter in progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a neurodegenerative tauopathy.


To assess tau pathology in PSP white matter, we combined Western blot (WB) and immunohistochemical methods to analyze 23 autopsy-confirmed PSP brains.


WBs showed an unexpected abundance of insoluble tau in white and gray matter of PSP brains, but biochemical tau pathology in white matter was not correlated with immunohistochemistry using the same panel of epitope-specific anti-tau antibodies used for WB. Despite heterogeneity in the representation of pathological 3R and 4R tau isoforms in cortical versus subcortical regions, biochemically detectable white matter tau pathology is a constant feature of PSP.


These studies show additional similarities between PSP and corticobasal degeneration, but unlike corticobasal degeneration, more abundant white matter tau pathology in PSP is detectable by WB than by immunohistochemistry. The differential detection of abnormal tau by biochemistry versus microscopy in PSP may reflect distinct pathological mechanisms, and elucidation of these processes will augment efforts to develop better strategies for the diagnosis and treatment of PSP and related neurodegenerative tauopathies.

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