Plasma and CSF concentrations of N-terminal tau fragments associate with in vivo neurofibrillary tangle burden

Alzheimers Dement. 2023 May 15. doi: 10.1002/alz.13119. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: Fluid biomarkers capable of specifically tracking tau tangle pathology in vivo are greatly needed.

Methods: We measured cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and plasma concentrations of N-terminal tau fragments (NTA-tau), using a novel immunoassay (NTA) in the TRIAD cohort, consisting of 272 individuals assessed with amyloid beta (Aβ) positron emission tomography (PET), tau PET, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and cognitive assessments.

Results: CSF and plasma NTA-tau concentrations were specifically increased in cognitively impaired Aβ-positive groups. CSF and plasma NTA-tau concentrations displayed stronger correlations with tau PET than with Aβ PET and MRI, both in global uptake and at the voxel level. Regression models demonstrated that both CSF and plasma NTA-tau are preferentially associated with tau pathology. Moreover, plasma NTA-tau was associated with longitudinal tau PET accumulation across the aging and Alzheimer's disease (AD) spectrum.

Discussion: NTA-tau is a biomarker closely associated with in vivo tau deposition in the AD continuum and has potential as a tau tangle biomarker in clinical settings and trials.

Highlights: An assay for detecting N-terminal tau fragments (NTA-tau) in plasma and CSF was evaluated. NTA-tau is more closely associated with tau PET than amyloid PET or neurodegeneration. NTA-tau can successfully track in vivo tau deposition across the AD continuum. Plasma NTA-tau increased over time only in cognitively impaired amyloid-β positive individuals.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; NTA; biomarkers; cerebrospinal fluid; plasma; tau.