Change in Cerebrospinal Fluid Tau Microtubule Binding Region Detects Symptom Onset, Cognitive Decline, Tangles, and Atrophy in Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer's Disease

Ann Neurol. 2023 Jun;93(6):1158-1172. doi: 10.1002/ana.26620. Epub 2023 Mar 16.


Objective: Identifying cerebrospinal fluid measures of the microtubule binding region of tau (MTBR-tau) species that reflect tau aggregation could provide fluid biomarkers that track Alzheimer's disease related neurofibrillary tau pathological changes. We examined the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) MTBR-tau species in dominantly inherited Alzheimer's disease (DIAD) mutation carriers to assess the association with Alzheimer's disease (AD) biomarkers and clinical symptoms.

Methods: Cross-sectional and longitudinal CSF from 229 DIAD mutation carriers and 130 mutation non-carriers had sequential characterization of N-terminal/mid-domain phosphorylated tau (p-tau) followed by MTBR-tau species and tau positron emission tomography (tau PET), other soluble tau and amyloid biomarkers, comprehensive clinical and cognitive assessments, and brain magnetic resonance imaging of atrophy.

Results: CSF MTBR-tau species located within the putative "border" region and one species corresponding to the "core" region of aggregates in neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) increased during the presymptomatic stage and decreased during the symptomatic stage. The "border" MTBR-tau species were associated with amyloid pathology and CSF p-tau; whereas the "core" MTBR-tau species were associated stronger with tau PET and CSF measures of neurodegeneration. The ratio of the border to the core species provided a continuous measure of increasing amounts that tracked clinical progression and NFTs.

Interpretation: Changes in CSF soluble MTBR-tau species preceded the onset of dementia, tau tangle increase, and atrophy in DIAD. The ratio of 4R-specific MTBR-tau (border) to the NFT (core) MTBR-tau species corresponds to the pathology of NFTs in DIAD and change with disease progression. The dynamics between different MTBR-tau species in the CSF may serve as a marker of tau-related disease progression and target engagement of anti-tau therapeutics. ANN NEUROL 2023;93:1158-1172.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / diagnostic imaging
  • Alzheimer Disease* / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease* / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Biomarkers / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / diagnostic imaging
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / genetics
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Microtubules / pathology
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods
  • tau Proteins / metabolism


  • tau Proteins
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Biomarkers