Co-localization of amyloid beta and tau pathology in Alzheimer's disease synaptosomes

Am J Pathol. 2008 Jun;172(6):1683-92. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2008.070829. Epub 2008 May 8.


The amyloid cascade hypothesis proposes that amyloid beta (Abeta) pathology precedes and induces tau pathology, but the neuropathological connection between these two lesions has not been demonstrated. We examined the regional distribution and co-localization of Abeta and phosphorylated tau (p-tau) in synaptic terminals of Alzheimer's disease brains. To quantitatively examine large populations of individual synaptic terminals, flow cytometry was used to analyze synaptosomes prepared from cryopreserved Alzheimer's disease tissue. An average 68.4% of synaptic terminals in the Alzheimer's disease cohort (n = 11) were positive for Abeta, and 32.3% were positive for p-tau; Abeta and p-tau fluorescence was lowest in cerebellum. In contrast to synaptic p-tau, which was highest in the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus (P = 0.004), synaptic Abeta fluorescence was significantly lower in the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus relative to neocortical regions (P = 0.0003). Synaptic Abeta and p-tau fluorescence was significantly correlated (r = 0.683, P < 0.004), and dual-labeling experiments demonstrated that 24.1% of Abeta-positive terminals were also positive for p-tau, with the highest fraction of dual labeling (39.3%) in the earliest affected region, the entorhinal cortex. Western blotting experiments show a significant correlation between synaptic Abeta levels measured by flow cytometry and oligomeric Abeta species (P < 0.0001). These results showing overlapping Abeta and tau pathology are consistent with a model in which both synaptic loss and dysfunction are linked to a synaptic amyloid cascade within the synaptic compartment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism*
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurites / metabolism
  • Neurites / pathology
  • Synaptosomes / metabolism
  • Synaptosomes / pathology*
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor
  • tau Proteins