Soluble pre-fibrillar tau and β-amyloid species emerge in early human Alzheimer’s disease and track disease progression and cognitive decline

David J. Koss* (Corresponding Author), Glynn Jones, Anna Cranston, Heidi Gardner, Nicholas M. Kanaan, Bettina Platt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Post-mortem investigations of human Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have largely failed to provide unequivocal evidence in support of the original amyloid cascade hypothesis, which postulated deposition of β-amyloid (Aβ) aggregates to be the cause of a demented state as well as inductive to tau neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs). Conflicting evidence suggests, however, that Aβ plaques and NFTs, albeit to a lesser extent, are present in a substantial subset of non-demented individuals. Hence, a range of soluble tau and Aβ species has more recently been implicated as the disease-relevant toxic entities. Despite the incorporation of soluble proteins into a revised amyloid cascade hypothesis, a detailed characterization of these species in the context of human AD onset, progression and cognitive decline has been lacking. Here, lateral temporal lobe samples (Brodmann area 21) of 46 human cases were profiled via tau and Aβ Western blot and native state dot blot protocols. Elevations in phospho-tau (antibodies: CP13, AT8 and PHF-1), pathological tau conformations (MC-1) and oligomeric tau (TOC1) agreed with medical diagnosis (non-AD cf. AD) and Braak stage classification (low, intermediate and high), alongside elevations in soluble Aβ species (MOAB-2 and pyro-glu Aβ) and a decline in levels of the amyloid precursor protein. Strong correlations were observed between individual Braak stages and multiple cognitive measures with all tau markers as well as total soluble Aβ. In contrast to previous reports, SDS-stable Aβ oligomers (*56) were not found to be reliable for all classifications and appeared likely to be a technical artefact. Critically, the robust predictive value of total soluble Aβ was dependent on native state quantification. Elevations in tau and Aβ within soluble fractions (Braak stage 2–3 cf. 0) were evident earlier than previously established in fibril-focused disease progression scales. Together, these data provide strong evidence that soluble forms of tau and Aβ co-localise early in AD and are closely linked to disease progression and cognitive decline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)875–895
Number of pages21
JournalActa Neuropathologica
Issue number6
Early online date21 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

We would like to gratefully acknowledge all donors and their families for the tissue provided for this study. Human tissue samples were supplied by the Brains for Dementia Research programme, jointly funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, the Alzheimer’s Society and the Medical Research Council, and sourced from the MRC London Neurodegenerative Diseases Brain Bank, the Manchester Brain Bank, the South West Dementia Brain Bank (SWDBB), the Newcastle Brain Tissue Resource and the Oxford Brain Bank.
The Newcastle Brain Tissue Resource and Oxford Brain Bank are also supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Units. The South West Dementia Brain Bank (SWDBB) receives additional support from BRACE (Bristol Research into Alzheimer’s and Care of the Elderly). Alz-50, CP13, MC-1 and PHF-1 antibodies were gifted from Dr. Peter Davies and brain lystates from BACE1−/−mice were obtained from Prof Mike Ashford. The work presented here was funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK (Grant refs: ARUKPPG2014A-21 and ARUK-NSG2015-1 to BP and DK and NIH/NIA grants NIH/NINDS R01 NS082730 and R01 AG044372 to NK)


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • amyloid
  • tau
  • cognitive decline
  • dementia
  • pathology


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