Site-Specific Cerebrospinal Fluid Tau Hyperphosphorylation in Response to Alzheimer's Disease Brain Pathology: Not All Tau Phospho-Sites are Hyperphosphorylated

J Alzheimers Dis. 2022;85(1):415-429. doi: 10.3233/JAD-210677.


Background: Understanding patterns of association between CSF phosphorylated tau (p-tau) species and clinical disease severity will aid Alzheimer's disease (AD) diagnosis and treatment.

Objective: To evaluate changes in tau phosphorylation ratios to brain imaging (amyloid PET, [18F]GTP1 PET, and MRI) and cognition across clinical stages of AD in two different cohorts.

Methods: A mass spectrometry (MS)-based method was used to evaluate the relationship between p-tau/tau phosphorylation ratios on 11 sites in CSF and AD pathology measured by tau PET ([18F]GTP1) and amyloid PET ([18F]florbetapir or [18F]florbetaben). Cohort A included cognitively normal amyloid negative (n = 6) and positive (n = 5) individuals, and amyloid positive prodromal (n = 13), mild (n = 12), and moderate AD patients (n = 10); and Cohort B included amyloid positive prodromal (n = 24) and mild (n = 40) AD patients.

Results: In this cross-sectional analysis, we identified clusters of phosphosites with different profiles of phosphorylation ratios across stages of disease. Eight of 11 investigated sites were hyperphosphorylated and associated with SUVR measures from [18F]GTP1 and amyloid PET. Novel sites 111, 153, and 208 may be relevant biomarkers for AD diagnosis to complement tau hyperphosphorylation measures on previously established sites 181, 205, 217, and 231. Hypophosphorylation was detected on residues 175, 199, and 202, and was inversely associated with [18F]GTP1 and amyloid PET.

Conclusion: Hyperphosphorylated and hypophosphorylated forms of tau are associated with AD pathologies, and due to their different site-specific profiles, they may be used in combination to assist with staging of disease.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; PET; [18F]GTP1; biomarker; cerebrospinal fluid; tau.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Biomarkers / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cognition
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Fluorine Radioisotopes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Middle Aged
  • Positron-Emission Tomography*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / metabolism
  • tau Proteins / cerebrospinal fluid*


  • Biomarkers
  • Fluorine Radioisotopes
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • tau Proteins