Clustering of tau-immunoreactive pathology in chronic traumatic encephalopathy

Richard A. Armstrong*, Ann C. McKee, Victor E. Alvarez, Nigel J. Cairns

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative disorder which may result from repetitive brain injury. A variety of tau-immunoreactive pathologies are present, including neurofibrillary tangles (NFT), neuropil threads (NT), dot-like grains (DLG), astrocytic tangles (AT), and occasional neuritic plaques (NP). In tauopathies, cellular inclusions in the cortex are clustered within specific laminae, the clusters being regularly distributed parallel to the pia mater. To determine whether a similar spatial pattern is present in CTE, clustering of the tau-immunoreactive pathology was studied in the cortex, hippocampus, and dentate gyrus in 11 cases of CTE and 7 cases of Alzheimer’s disease neuropathologic change (ADNC) without CTE. In CTE: (1) all aspects of tau-immunoreactive pathology were clustered and the clusters were frequently regularly distributed parallel to the tissue boundary, (2) clustering was similar in two CTE cases with minimal co-pathology compared with cases with associated ADNC or TDP-43 proteinopathy, (3) in a proportion of cortical gyri, estimated cluster size was similar to that of cell columns of the cortico-cortical pathways, and (4) clusters of the tau-immunoreactive pathology were infrequently spatially correlated with blood vessels. The NFT and NP in ADNC without CTE were less frequently randomly or uniformly distributed and more frequently in defined clusters than in CTE. Hence, the spatial pattern of the tau-immunoreactive pathology observed in CTE is typical of the tauopathies but with some distinct differences compared to ADNC alone. The spread of pathogenic tau along anatomical pathways could be a factor in the pathogenesis of the disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-192
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neural Transmission
Issue number2
Early online date21 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017

Bibliographical note

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  • Alzheimer’s disease neuropathologic change (ADNC)
  • chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)
  • neurofibrillary tangle
  • spatial correlation
  • spatial pattern
  • tauopathy


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