Characteristic tau isoform composition of the insoluble fibrillar tau inclusions define tauopathies, including Alzheimer's disease (AD), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17/frontotemporal lobar degeneration-tau (FTDP-17/FTLD-tau). Exon 10 splicing mutations in the tau gene, MAPT, in familial FTDP-17 cause elevation of tau isoforms with four microtubule-binding repeat domains (4R-tau) compared to those with three repeats (3R-tau). On the basis of two well-characterised monoclonal antibodies against 3R- and 4R-tau, we developed novel, sensitive immuno-PCR assays for measuring the trace amounts of these isoforms in CSF. This was with the aim of assessing if CSF tau isoform changes reflect the pathological changes in tau isoform homeostasis in the degenerative brain and if these would be relevant for differential clinical diagnosis. Initial analysis of clinical CSF samples of PSP (n = 46), corticobasal syndrome (CBS; n = 22), AD (n = 11), Parkinson's disease with dementia (PDD; n = 16) and 35 controls revealed selective decreases of immunoreactive 4R-tau in CSF of PSP and AD patients compared with controls, and lower 4R-tau levels in AD compared with PDD. These decreases could be related to the disease-specific conformational masking of the RD4-binding epitope because of abnormal folding and/or aggregation of the 4R-tau isoforms in tauopathies or increased sequestration of the 4R-tau isoforms in brain tau pathology. Is cerebrospinal fluid a window to the degenerative brain?This study was performed to see if the imbalances in brain tau isoforms that cause some of the commonest neurodegenerative disorders can be detected in the cerebrospinal fluid. With the development of a very sensitive assay to measure the miniscule amounts of tau in cerebrospinal fluid, we showed a selective disease-specific reduction of those tau isoforms that have greatest propensity to aggregate and form pathological inclusions. The selective reduction in CSF of the tau isoform could be a reflection of increased deposition in the degenerative brain or conversion of these isoforms into disease-specific conformation and could thus be of clinical diagnostic value.

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Journal of Neurochemistry
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Luk, C., Compta, Y., Magdalinou, N., Martí, M. J., Hondhamuni, G., Zetterberg, H., … de Silva, R. (2012). Development and assessment of sensitive immuno-PCR assays for the quantification of cerebrospinal fluid three- and four-repeat tau isoforms in tauopathies. Journal of Neurochemistry, 123(3), 396–405. doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.2012.07911.x