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Cerebrospinal fluid N-224 tau helps discriminate Alzheimer’s disease from subjective cognitive decline and other dementias

Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy | February 8, 2021

Cicognola C, Hansson O, Scheltens P, Kvartsberg H, Zetterberg H, Teunissen CE and Blennow K

Alzheimers Res Ther. 2021;13:38


This study was peformed using a Simoa® Homebrew assay.



Elevated cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) concentrations of total tau (T-tau) and phosphorylated tau at Thr181 (P-tau181) protein are typical of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, the T-tau assay measures only the mid-region of the protein, while tau in CSF is instead composed of a series of fragments. One fragment species in particular, N-224, shows increased levels in AD compared to controls. In this multicentre study, we performed a clinical validation of the N-224 assay in cohorts including patients with subjective cognitive decline (SCD), mild cognitive impairment (MCI), AD, non-AD dementias and controls.


Cohorts consisted of 30 SCD and 30 probable AD from the Amsterdam Dementia Cohort (cohort 1) and 539 controls, 195 SCD, 232 MCI, 137 AD and 253 non-AD from the Swedish BioFINDER study (cohort 2). All samples had AD core biomarkers (Aβ42, T-tau, P-tau181) measurements. N-224 was measured with an in-house ultrasensitive Simoa assay.


N-224 levels were significantly higher in AD compared to SCD (cohort 1: p = 0.003) and in AD compared to all other diagnostic groups in cohort 2 (control, SCD, MCI and non-AD, p < 0.0001). Within the non-AD group, N-224 showed significantly lower concentrations compared to AD in Parkinson’s disease (PD, p < 0.0001), Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD, p = 0.004), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP, < 0.0001), multiple system atrophy (MSA, p = 0.002) and parkinsonisms not otherwise specified (NOS, p = 0.007). In cohort 1, higher concentrations of N-224 were associated to lower Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores (R2 = 0.318, β = 0.564, p ≤ 0.0001) and could accurately identify a pathological (< 24) MMSE score (p < 0.0001, AUC = 0.824).


N-224 tau can distinguish AD subjects from SCD and can discriminate subgroups of non-AD dementias from AD. Therefore, N-224 may be a useful addition to the tau biomarker toolbox for the study of tau species in CSF and for better understanding disease pathogenesis.