Acta Neuropathologica

, Volume 120, Issue 1, pp 13–20 | Cite as

Reduction of aggregated Tau in neuronal processes but not in the cell bodies after Aβ42 immunisation in Alzheimer’s disease

  • Delphine Boche
  • Jane Donald
  • Seth Love
  • Scott Harris
  • James W. Neal
  • Clive Holmes
  • James A. R. Nicoll
Original Paper


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology is characterised by aggregation in the brain of amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide and hyperphosphorylated tau (phospho-tau), although how these proteins interact in disease pathogenesis is unclear. Aβ immunisation results in removal of Aβ from the brain but cognitive decline continues to progress, possibly due to persistent phospho-tau. We quantified phospho-tau and Aβ42 in the brains of 10 AD patients (iAD) who were actively immunised with Aβ42 (AN1792, Elan Pharmaceuticals) compared with 28 unimmunised AD cases (cAD). The phospho-tau load was lower in the iAD than the cAD group in the cerebral cortex (cAD 1.08% vs. iAD 0.72%, P = 0.048), CA1 hippocampus (cAD 2.26% vs. iAD 1.05%; P = 0.001), subiculum (cAD 1.60% vs. iAD 0.31%; P = 0.001) and entorhinal cortex (cAD 1.10% vs. iAD 0.18%; P < 0.001). Assessment of the localisation within neurons of phospho-tau indicated that the Aβ immunotherapy-associated reduction was confined to neuronal processes, i.e. neuropil threads and dystrophic neurites. However, the phospho-tau accumulation in the neuronal cell bodies, contributing to neurofibrillary tangles, appeared not to be affected. In showing that Aβ immunisation can influence phospho-tau pathology, we confirm the position of Aβ as a target for modifying tau accumulation in AD and demonstrate a link between these proteins. However, the continuing progression of cognitive decline in AD patients after Aβ immunisation may be explained by its lack of apparent effect on tangles.


Alzheimer’s disease Tau Immunisation Amyloid 



We thank the patients who were involved in this study and their carers. Vivienne Hopkins, David Wilkinson, Anthony Bayer, Roy Jones and Roger Bullock enrolled patients in the original trial and facilitated subsequent follow up of the patients. Miss Elina Zotova optimised the tau staining. The Neuropathology Section, Department of Cellular Pathology, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Histopathology Research Unit and Biomedical Research Unit of the School of Medicine, University of Southampton, facilitated tissue analysis. Staff at Elan Pharmaceuticals made available original clinical trial data. The studies were funded by the Alzheimer Research Trust (JARN, DB, CH: ART/PG2006/4) and the Medical Research Council (DB: G0501033).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Delphine Boche
    • 1
  • Jane Donald
    • 1
  • Seth Love
    • 2
  • Scott Harris
    • 3
  • James W. Neal
    • 4
  • Clive Holmes
    • 1
    • 5
  • James A. R. Nicoll
    • 1
    • 6
  1. 1.Division of Clinical Neurosciences, School of Medicine, Southampton General HospitalUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  2. 2.Department of NeuropathologyUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  3. 3.Public Health Sciences and Medical Statistics FacultyUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  4. 4.Department of PathologyUniversity of WalesCardiffUK
  5. 5.M.A.R.C., Moorgreen HospitalHampshire Partnership FoundationSouthamptonUK
  6. 6.Department of Cellular PathologySouthampton University Hospitals NHS TrustSouthamptonUK

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