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Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2012;34(1):15-24. doi: 10.1159/000341581. Epub 2012 Aug 3.

Mesial temporal astrocyte tau pathology in the MRC-CFAS ageing brain cohort.

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Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.



Glial tau pathology is seen in certain tauopathies and in ageing. We determined its frequency in ageing mesial temporal lobe and its relationship to other tau pathologies in the MRC-CFAS population-representative neuropathology cohort.


Mesial temporal lobe, including hippocampus, amygdala, entorhinal cortex and white matter, was examined using immunohistochemistry with the AT8 antibody to phospho-tau and RD3 and RD4 antibodies to 3R and 4R tau isoforms. Gallyas silver stain was used to detect fibrillar aggregates.


Thorn-shaped astrocytes (TSA), positive with AT8, RD4 and Gallyas, were present in 49% of cases. They were particularly prevalent in subpial, periventricular and white matter perivascular locations and were less frequent in grey matter. Coiled bodies were seen in 18.8%. TSA were not related to Braak neurofibrillary tangle or hippocampal tangle pathology stages. TSA in grey matter were associated with coiled bodies (p = 0.011) and argyrophilic grains (p = 0.048), which were identified in 11.5% of cases. They did not correlate with dementia.


Astrocyte tau pathology is common in the ageing mesial temporal lobe. Its formation is independent of Alzheimer-type pathology. It is a 4R tauopathy, which may form part of a mesial temporal age-related 4R tauopathy that includes oligodendroglial tau and argyrophilic grains.

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