In Alzheimer’s disease (AD), tau phosphorylation in the brain and its subsequent release into cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and blood is a dynamic process that changes during disease evolution. The main aim of our study was to characterize the pattern of changes in phosphorylated tau (p-tau) in the preclinical stage of the Alzheimer’s continuum. We measured three novel CSF p-tau biomarkers, phosphorylated at threonine-181 and threonine-217 with an N-terminal partner antibody and at threonine-231 with a mid-region partner antibody. These were compared with an automated mid-region p-tau181 assay (Elecsys) as the gold standard p-tau measure. We demonstrate that these novel p-tau biomarkers increase more prominently in preclinical Alzheimer, when only subtle changes of amyloid-β (Aβ) pathology are detected, and can accurately differentiate Aβ-positive from Aβ-negative cognitively unimpaired individuals. Moreover, we show that the novel plasma N-terminal p-tau181 biomarker is mildly but significantly increased in the preclinical stage. Our results support the idea that early changes in neuronal tau metabolism in preclinical Alzheimer, likely in response to Aβ exposure, can be detected with these novel p-tau assays.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12921
JournalEMBO Molecular Medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2020


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • biomarker
  • cerebrospinal fluid
  • plasma
  • tau


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