Dementia lacking distinctive histopathology (DLDH) or frontotemporal lobe degeneration (FTLD) is the most common neuropathological diagnosis for sporadic frontotemporal dementias (FTDs). The hallmarks of DLDH are neuron loss and gliosis in the absence of any disease-specific brain lesion. Similar brain pathology is also seen in a familial FTD pedigree known as hereditary dysphasic disinhibition dementia 2 (HDDD2). Abnormality in the function or isoform composition of the microtubule binding protein tau is a prominent feature in the brains of many patients with sporadic and hereditary FTDs. Therefore, we studied the tau protein in different brain regions from DLDH and HDDD2 patients. Our results indicate that a selective loss of all six tau isoforms, but not tau mRNA, occurs in these brains compared to normal control and Alzheimer's disease brains. Loss of tau protein was identified by Western blot analysis of protein extracts from DLDH and HDDD2 brains in regions both with and without neuronal degeneration. Functionally, this loss of tau protein may be equivalent to pathogenic mutations in the tau gene identified in familial FTD with parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17 (FTDP-17). Thus, DLDH and HDDD2 are novel tauopathies with a unique mechanism of pathogenesis. The presence of tau mRNA in these brains suggests that the level of tau protein may be controlled posttranscriptionally, at the level of either translation or mRNA stability.