Patterns of hippocampal tau pathology differentiate neurodegenerative dementias

Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2014;38(5-6):375-88. doi: 10.1159/000365548. Epub 2014 Sep 5.


Background/aims: Deposits of phosphorylated tau protein and convergence of pathology in the hippocampus are the hallmarks of neurodegenerative tauopathies. Thus we aimed to evaluate whether regional and cellular vulnerability patterns in the hippocampus distinguish tauopathies or are influenced by their concomitant presence.

Methods: We created a heat map of phospho-tau (AT8) immunoreactivity patterns in 24 hippocampal subregions/layers in individuals with Alzheimer's disease (AD)-related neurofibrillary degeneration (n = 40), Pick's disease (n = 8), progressive supranuclear palsy (n = 7), corticobasal degeneration (n = 6), argyrophilic grain disease (AGD, n = 18), globular glial tauopathy (n = 5), and tau-astrogliopathy of the elderly (n = 10). AT8 immunoreactivity patterns were compared by mathematical analysis.

Results: Our study reveals disease-specific hot spots and regional selective vulnerability for these disorders. The pattern of hippocampal AD-related tau pathology is strongly influenced by concomitant AGD. Mathematical analysis reveals that hippocampal involvement in primary tauopathies is distinguishable from early-stage AD-related neurofibrillary degeneration.

Conclusion: Our data demonstrate disease-specific AT8 immunoreactivity patterns and hot spots in the hippocampus even in tauopathies, which primarily do not affect the hippocampus. These hot spots can be shifted to other regions by the co-occurrence of tauopathies like AGD. Our observations support the notion that globular glial tauopathies and tau-astrogliopathy of the elderly are distinct entities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phosphorylation
  • Pick Disease of the Brain / metabolism
  • Pick Disease of the Brain / pathology
  • Supranuclear Palsy, Progressive / metabolism
  • Supranuclear Palsy, Progressive / pathology
  • Tauopathies / metabolism*
  • Tauopathies / pathology*
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • MAPT protein, human
  • tau Proteins