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Extensive p-Tau Pathology and SDS-Stable p-Tau Oligomers in Alzheimer's Cortical Synapses


  • Funding: This work was supported by NIH 5AG016570 to KHG, by NIA AG18879 to CAM, and by NIH CA 16042 and AI 28697 to the Jonsson Cancer Center at UCLA.

Karen H. Gylys, PhD, Box 956919 Factor Bldg, Los Angeles, CA 90095-6919 (E-mail:


Like amyloid beta (Aβ) oligomers, tau aggregates are increasingly recognized as potential key toxic intermediates in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and as therapeutic targets. P-tau co-localizes with Aβ in cortical AD synapses and may contribute to synapse dysfunction and loss. Flow cytometry analysis of synaptosomes from AD compared with aged cognitively normal cortex demonstrates increased immunolabeling for three p-tau antibodies (AT8, PHF-1 and pS422), indicating phosphorylation at multiple tau epitopes. Sequential extraction experiments show increased soluble p-tau in AD synapses, but a sizable pool of p-tau requires detergent solubilization, suggesting endosomal/lysosomal localization. P-tau is co-localized with Aβ in individual synaptosomes in dual labeling experiments, and flow cytometry sorting of Aβ-positive synaptosomes from an AD case reveals a marked enrichment of p-tau aggregates. The p-tau enrichment, a 76-fold increase over the initial homogenate, is consistent with sequestration of p-tau in internal synaptic compartments. Western analysis of a series of AD and normal cases shows SDS-stable tau oligomers in the dimer/trimer size range in AD samples. These results indicate that widespread synaptic p-tau pathology accompanies Aβ accumulations in surviving synaptic terminals, particularly in late-stage AD.

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