Distinct phosphorylation profiles of tau in brains of patients with different tauopathies

Neurobiol Aging. 2021 Dec;108:72-79. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2021.08.011. Epub 2021 Aug 21.


Tauopathies are neurodegenerative diseases that are characterized by pathological accumulation of tau protein. Tau is hyperphosphorylated in the brain of tauopathy patients, and this phosphorylation is proposed to play a role in disease development. However, it has been unclear whether phosphorylation is different among different tauopathies. Here, we investigated the phosphorylation states of tau in several tauopathies, including corticobasal degeneration, Pick's disease, progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), argyrophilic grain dementia (AGD) and Alzheimer's disease (AD). Analysis of tau phosphorylation profiles using Phos-tag SDS-PAGE revealed distinct phosphorylation of tau in different tauopathies, whereas similar phosphorylation patterns were found within the same tauopathy. For PSP, we found 2 distinct phosphorylation patterns suggesting that PSP may consist of 2 different related diseases. Immunoblotting with anti-phospho-specific antibodies showed different site-specific phosphorylation in the temporal lobes of patients with different tauopathies. AD brains showed increased phosphorylation at Ser202, Thr231 and Ser235, Pick's disease brains showed increased phospho-Ser202, and AGD brains showed increased phospho-Ser396. The cis conformation of the peptide bond between phospho-Thr231 and Pro232 (cis ptau) was increased in AD and AGD. These results indicate that while tau is differently phosphorylated in tauopathies, a similar pathological mechanism may occur in AGD and AD patients. The present data provide useful information regarding tau pathology and diagnosis of tauopathies.

Keywords: Cis p-tau; Phos-tag SDS-PAGE; Phosphorylation; Pin1; Tau; Tauopathy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Corticobasal Degeneration / diagnosis
  • Corticobasal Degeneration / metabolism
  • Dementia / diagnosis
  • Dementia / metabolism
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel / methods
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting / methods
  • Phosphorylation
  • Pick Disease of the Brain / diagnosis
  • Pick Disease of the Brain / metabolism
  • Supranuclear Palsy, Progressive / diagnosis
  • Supranuclear Palsy, Progressive / metabolism
  • Tauopathies / diagnosis
  • Tauopathies / metabolism*
  • Temporal Lobe / metabolism
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • tau Proteins