Tauopathies are heterogeneous neurodegenerative diseases defined by progressive brain accumulation of tau aggregates. The most common tauopathy, sporadic Alzheimer’s disease (AD), involves progressive tau deposition that can be divided into specific stages of neurofibrillary tangle pathology. This classification is consistent with experimental data which suggests that network-based propagation is mediated by cell–cell transfer of tau “seeds”, or assemblies, that serve as templates for their own replication. Until now, seeding assays of AD brain have largely been limited to areas previously defined by NFT pathology. We now expand this work to additional regions. We selected 20 individuals with AD pathology of NFT stages I, III, and V. We stained and classified 25 brain regions in each using the anti-phospho-tau monoclonal antibody AT8. We measured tau seeding in each of the 500 samples using a cell-based tau “biosensor” assay in which induction of intracellular tau aggregation is mediated by exogenous tau assemblies. We observed a progressive increase in tau seeding according to NFT stage. Seeding frequently preceded NFT pathology, e.g., in the basolateral subnucleus of the amygdala and the substantia nigra, pars compacta. We observed seeding in brain regions not previously known to develop tau pathology, e.g., the globus pallidus and internal capsule, where AT8 staining revealed mainly axonal accumulation of tau. AT8 staining in brain regions identified because of tau seeding also revealed pathology in a previously undescribed cell type: Bergmann glia of the cerebellar cortex. We also detected tau seeding in brain regions not previously examined, e.g., the intermediate reticular zone, dorsal raphe nucleus, amygdala, basal nucleus of Meynert, and olfactory bulb. In conclusion, tau histopathology and seeding are complementary analytical tools. Tau seeding assays reveal pathology in the absence of AT8 signal in some instances, and previously unrecognized sites of tau deposition. The variation in sites of seeding between individuals could underlie differences in the clinical presentation and course of AD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number164
JournalActa Neuropathologica Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • AT8
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • FRET biosensor
  • NFT staging
  • Neurofibrillary tangles
  • Prion propagation
  • Tau seeding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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