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Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2018 Jun 29;6(1):52. doi: 10.1186/s40478-018-0557-6.

Phosphorylation of different tau sites during progression of Alzheimer's disease.

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QPS Austria GmbH, Neuropharmacology, Parkring 12, 8074, Grambach, Austria.
Institute for Biochemistry, Graz University of Technology, Graz, Austria.
Institute of Zoology, Karl Franzens University, Graz, Austria.
Institute of Neuroscience and Newcastle University Institute for Ageing Campus for Ageing and Vitality, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 5PL, UK.
QPS Austria GmbH, Neuropharmacology, Parkring 12, 8074, Grambach, Austria.


Alzheimer's disease is characterized by accumulation of amyloid plaques and tau aggregates in several cortical brain regions. Tau phosphorylation causes formation of neurofibrillary tangles and neuropil threads. Phosphorylation at tau Ser202/Thr205 is well characterized since labeling of this site is used to assign Braak stage based on occurrence of neurofibrillary tangles. Only little is known about the spatial and temporal phosphorylation profile of other phosphorylated tau (ptau) sites. Here, we investigate total tau and ptau at residues Tyr18, Ser199, Ser202/Thr205, Thr231, Ser262, Ser396, Ser422 as well as amyloid-β plaques in human brain tissue of AD patients and controls. Allo- and isocortical brain regions were evaluated applying rater-independent automated quantification based on digital image analysis. We found that the level of ptau at several residues, like Ser199, Ser202/Thr205, and Ser422 was similar in healthy controls and Braak stages I to IV but was increased in Braak stage V/VI throughout the entire isocortex and transentorhinal cortex. Quantification of ThioS-stained plaques showed a similar pattern. Only tau phosphorylation at Tyr18 and Thr231 was already significantly increased in the transentorhinal region at Braak stage III/IV and hence showed a progressive increase with increasing Braak stages. Additionally, the increase in phosphorylation relative to controls was highest at Tyr18, Thr231 and Ser199. By contrast, Ser396 tau and Ser262 tau showed only a weak phosphorylation in all analyzed brain regions and only minor progression. Our results suggest that the ptau burden in the isocortex is comparable between all analyzed ptau sites when using a quantitative approach while levels of ptau at Tyr18 or Thr231 in the transentorhinal region are different between all Braak stages. Hence these sites could be crucial in the pathogenesis of AD already at early stages and therefore represent putative novel therapeutic targets.


Cingulate; Frontal; Immunofluorescent labeling; Microtubule-associated protein tau; Occipital and temporal cortex; Phosphorylation; Transentorhinal region

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