Heroin abuse exaggerates age-related deposition of hyperphosphorylated tau and p62-positive inclusions

Gabor G. Kovacs, Monika Cs Horvath, Katalin Majtenyi, Mirjam I. Lutz, Yasmin L. Hurd, Eva Keller

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22 Citations (Scopus)


The observation of increased hyperphosphorylated tau levels correlating with microglial activation in opiate abusers has been interpreted as predisposition to accelerated Alzheimer disease-related changes. The present study focused on evaluating additional neurodegeneration-related proteins, including α-synuclein and TDP-43, and p62-positive deposits. We performed a systematic mapping of protein deposits in the brains of 27 individuals with documented heroin addiction (age: 19-40 years) and compared with 11 controls (age: 15-40 years). We confirm previous findings that heroin addiction associates with tau hyperphosphorylation in predilection brain areas for aging and Alzheimer disease. Furthermore, we show that this occurs also in areas implicated in the molecular disturbances and in vivo neuronal networks related to heroin abuse. There was, however, no presence of amyloid-beta deposits. We extend previous findings by showing the lack of TDP-43 or α-synuclein pathology and emphasize the independent effect of the duration of drug use on the appearance of age-related p62-positive neuritic profiles. These observations provide unique insights about neuropathological alterations in the brains of young heroin addicts and have implications about brain aging and the influences of environmental and toxic factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3100-3107
Number of pages8
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015



  • Aging
  • Heroin
  • Neuropathology
  • Opiate
  • TDP-43
  • Tau
  • p62
  • α-Synuclein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Ageing
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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