Mesial temporal astrocyte tau pathology in the MRC-CFAS ageing brain cohort

Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2012;34(1):15-24. doi: 10.1159/000341581. Epub 2012 Aug 3.


Background: Glial tau pathology is seen in certain tauopathies and in ageing. We determined its frequency in ageing mesial temporal lobe and its relationship to other tau pathologies in the MRC-CFAS population-representative neuropathology cohort.

Methods: Mesial temporal lobe, including hippocampus, amygdala, entorhinal cortex and white matter, was examined using immunohistochemistry with the AT8 antibody to phospho-tau and RD3 and RD4 antibodies to 3R and 4R tau isoforms. Gallyas silver stain was used to detect fibrillar aggregates.

Results: Thorn-shaped astrocytes (TSA), positive with AT8, RD4 and Gallyas, were present in 49% of cases. They were particularly prevalent in subpial, periventricular and white matter perivascular locations and were less frequent in grey matter. Coiled bodies were seen in 18.8%. TSA were not related to Braak neurofibrillary tangle or hippocampal tangle pathology stages. TSA in grey matter were associated with coiled bodies (p = 0.011) and argyrophilic grains (p = 0.048), which were identified in 11.5% of cases. They did not correlate with dementia.

Conclusions: Astrocyte tau pathology is common in the ageing mesial temporal lobe. Its formation is independent of Alzheimer-type pathology. It is a 4R tauopathy, which may form part of a mesial temporal age-related 4R tauopathy that includes oligodendroglial tau and argyrophilic grains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics
  • Astrocytes / pathology*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Cadaver
  • Cell Shape / physiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Neuroglia / pathology
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism
  • Oligodendroglia / pathology
  • Silver Staining
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Apolipoproteins E
  • tau Proteins