An immunohistochemical study of cases of sporadic and inherited frontotemporal lobar degeneration using 3R- and 4R-specific tau monoclonal antibodies

Acta Neuropathol. 2006 Apr;111(4):329-40. doi: 10.1007/s00401-006-0048-x. Epub 2006 Mar 22.


The pathological distinctions between the various clinical and pathological manifestations of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) remain unclear. Using monoclonal antibodies specific for 3- and 4-repeat isoforms of the microtubule associated protein, tau (3R- and 4R-tau), we have performed an immunohistochemical study of the tau pathology present in 14 cases of sporadic forms of FTLD, 12 cases with Pick bodies and two cases without and in 27 cases of familial FTLD associated with 12 different mutations in the tau gene (MAPT), five cases with Pick bodies and 22 cases without. In all 12 cases of sporadic FTLD where Pick bodies were present, these contained only 3R-tau isoforms. Clinically, ten of these cases had frontotemporal dementia and two had progressive apraxia. Only 3R-tau isoforms were present in Pick bodies in those patients with familial FTLD associated with L266V, Q336R, E342V, K369I or G389R MAPT mutations. Patients with familial FTLD associated with exon 10 N279K, N296H or +16 splice site mutations showed tau pathology characterised by neuronal neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) and glial cell tangles that contained only 4R-tau isoforms, as did the NFT in P301L MAPT mutation. With the R406W mutation, NFT contained both 3R- and 4R-tau isoforms. We also observed two patients with sporadic FTLD, but without Pick bodies, in whom the tau pathology comprised only of 4R-tau isoforms. We have therefore shown by immunohistochemistry that different specific tau isoform compositions underlie the various kinds of tau pathology present in sporadic and familial FTLD. The use of such tau isoform specific antibodies may refine pathological criteria underpinning FTLD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Dementia / genetics
  • Dementia / metabolism*
  • Dementia / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • MAPT protein, human
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Protein Isoforms
  • tau Proteins