Stages of the pathologic process in Alzheimer disease: age categories from 1 to 100 years

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2011 Nov;70(11):960-9. doi: 10.1097/NEN.0b013e318232a379.


Two thousand three hundred and thirty two nonselected brains from 1- to 100-year-old individuals were examined using immunocytochemistry (AT8) and Gallyas silver staining for abnormal tau; immunocytochemistry (4G8) and Campbell-Switzer staining were used for the detection ofβ-amyloid. A total of 342 cases was negative in the Gallyas stain but when restaged for AT8 only 10 were immunonegative. Fifty-eight cases had subcortical tau predominantly in the locus coeruleus, but there was no abnormal cortical tau (subcortical Stages a-c). Cortical involvement (abnormal tau in neurites) was identified first in the transentorhinal region (Stage 1a, 38 cases). Transentorhinal pyramidal cells displayed pretangle material (Stage 1b, 236 cases). Pretangles gradually became argyrophilic neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) that progressed in parallel with NFT Stages I to VI. Pretangles restricted to subcortical sites were seen chiefly at younger ages. Of the total cases, 1,031 (44.2%) had β-amyloid plaques. The first plaques occurred in the neocortex after the onset of tauopathy in the brainstem. Plaques generally developed in the 40s in 4% of all cases, culminating in their tenth decade (75%). β-amyloid plaques and NFTs were significantly correlated (p < 0.0001). These data suggest that tauopathy associated with sporadic Alzheimer disease may begin earlier than previously thought and possibly in the lower brainstem rather than in the transentorhinal region.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles / pathology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Silver Staining / methods
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Young Adult
  • tau Proteins / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • tau Proteins