Horie K, Salvadó G, Barthélemy NR, Janelidze S, Li Y, He Y, Saef B, Chen CD, Jiang H, Strandberg O, Pichet Binette A, Palmqvist S, Sato C, Sachdev P, Koyama A, Gordon BA, Benzinger TLS, Holtzman DM, Morris JC, Mattsson-Carlgren N, Stomrud E, Ossenkoppele R, Schindler SE, Hansson O, Bateman RJ. Nat Med. 2023 Aug;29(8):1954-1963. doi: 10.1038/s41591-023-02443-z.
Aggregated insoluble tau is one of two defining features of Alzheimer’s disease. Because clinical symptoms are strongly correlated with tau aggregates, drug development and clinical diagnosis need cost-effective and accessible specific fluid biomarkers of tau aggregates; however, recent studies suggest that the fluid biomarkers currently available cannot specifically track tau aggregates. We show that the microtubule-binding region (MTBR) of tau containing the residue 243 (MTBR-tau243) is a new cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarker specific for insoluble tau aggregates and compared it to multiple other phosphorylated tau measures (p-tau181, p-tau205, p-tau217 and p-tau231) in two independent cohorts (BioFINDER-2, n = 448; and Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center, n = 219). MTBR-tau243 was most strongly associated with tau-positron emission tomography (PET) and cognition, whereas showing the lowest association with amyloid-PET. In combination with p-tau205, MTBR-tau243 explained most of the total variance in tau-PET burden (0.58 ≤ R2 ≤ 0.75) and the performance in predicting cognitive measures (0.34 ≤ R2 ≤ 0.48) approached that of tau-PET (0.44 ≤ R2 ≤ 0.52). MTBR-tau243 levels longitudinally increased with insoluble tau aggregates, unlike CSF p-tau species. CSF MTBR-tau243 is a specific biomarker of tau aggregate pathology, which may be utilized in interventional trials and in the diagnosis of patients. Based on these findings, we propose to revise the A/T/(N) criteria to include MTBR-tau243 as representing insoluble tau aggregates (‘T’).