A peculiar constellation of tau pathology defines a subset of dementia in the elderly

Gabor G. Kovacs, Kinga Molnár, Lajos László, Thomas Ströbel, Gergö Botond, Selma Hönigschnabl, Angelika Reiner-Concin, Miklós Palkovits, Peter Fischer, Herbert Budka

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Sporadic tauopathies are characterized by differential cellular and topographical predominance of phospho-tau immunoreactivity and biochemical distinction of the tau protein. Established entities include progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration, Pick's disease, and argyrophilic grain disease. During a community-based longitudinal study on aging, we detected tau pathologies not compatible with these categories. We immunostained for different phospho-tau epitopes, 4R and 3R tau isoforms, α-synuclein, amyloid-β, and phospho-TDP-43, analyzed the MAPT and ApoE genes, and performed western blotting for the tau protein. The mean age of patients (4 women, 3 men) was 83.8 years. Clinical presentations combined dementia with psychiatric symptoms and/or parkinsonism. In addition to neurofibrillary tangles and diffuse neuronal cytoplasmic tau immunoreactivity, the neuropathology was characterized by peculiar cytopathologies (diffuse granular immunopositivity of astrocytic processes and patchy accumulation of thin threads) in a distinctive distribution (frontal and temporal cortices, hippocampus, amygdala, basal ganglia, locus coeruleus, and substantia nigra). Argyrophilic grains were detected in four patients. Few to moderate densities of neuritic plaques but widespread phospho-TDP-43 pathology was observed in five patients. There was variability in the H1/H2 and ApoE alleles and biochemical features of tau protein. We propose these cases as complex tauopathy with a characteristic constellation: some features of primary tauopathies and Alzheimer's disease mixed with additional cytopathologies including a distinctive astrogliopathy, in a characteristic distribution of lesions. These complex tauopathies in the elderly deserve specific diagnostic and eventually therapeutic considerations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-222
Number of pages18
JournalActa neuropathologica
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - aug. 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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    Kovacs, G. G., Molnár, K., László, L., Ströbel, T., Botond, G., Hönigschnabl, S., Reiner-Concin, A., Palkovits, M., Fischer, P., & Budka, H. (2011). A peculiar constellation of tau pathology defines a subset of dementia in the elderly. Acta neuropathologica, 122(2), 205-222. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00401-011-0819-x