Cerebrospinal fluid tau protein is not a biological marker in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Eur J Neurol. 2009 Feb;16(2):257-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-1331.2008.02405.x. Epub 2008 Dec 9.


Background: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disorder leading to progressive motor neuron cell death. Etiopathogenesis is still imperfectly known and much effort have been undertaken to find a biological marker that could help in the early diagnosis and in the monitoring of disease progression. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) concentrations of tau, an axonal microtubule-associated protein, have been measured in ALS with levels found increased in some studies and unchanged in others.

Methods: Total CSF tau level was assayed in a population of ALS patients (n = 57) and controls (n = 110) using a specific ELISA method.

Results: No significant differences in the median CSF tau levels between ALS cases and controls were found [ALS: 126 pg/ml (78-222); controls: 112 pg/ml (71-188), P = ns]. In the ALS group, the bulbar-onset patients showed increased CSF tau levels as compared with the spinal-onset cases. These differences might be related to the higher age of the bulbar-onset patients. Further, no correlations were found between CSF tau concentrations and the rate of progression of the disease.

Conclusions: These results do not support the hypothesis that total CSF tau protein is a reliable biological marker for ALS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Biomarkers / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Disease Progression
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • tau Proteins / cerebrospinal fluid*


  • Biomarkers
  • tau Proteins