Publications & Posters

Characterization of Alzheimer’s tau biomarker discordance using plasma, CSF, and PET

Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy | May 4, 2021

Guo Y, Huang YY, Shen XN, Chen SD, Hu H, Wang ZT, Tan L and Yu JT

Alzheimers Res Ther. 2021;13:93


This study was performed using a Simoa Homebrew assay.



We aimed to investigate the tau biomarker discrepancies of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) using plasma tau phosphorylated at threonine 181 (p-tau181), cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) p-tau181, and AV1451 positron emission tomography (PET).


In the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, 724 non-demented participants were categorized into plasma/CSF and plasma/PET groups. Demographic and clinical variables, amyloid-β (Aβ) burden, flortaucipir-PET binding in Braak regions of interest (ROIs), longitudinal changes in clinical outcomes, and conversion risk were compared.


Across different tau biomarker groups, the proportion of participants with a discordant profile varied (plasma+/CSF− 15.6%, plasma−/CSF+ 15.3%, plasma+/PET− 22.4%, and plasma−/PET+ 6.1%). Within the plasma/CSF categories, we found an increase from concordant-negative to discordant to concordant-positive in the frequency of Aβ pathology or cognitive impairment, rates of cognitive decline, and risk of cognitive conversion. However, the two discordant categories (plasma+/CSF− and plasma−/CSF+) showed comparable performances, resulting in similarly reduced cognitive capacities. Regarding plasma/PET categories, as expected, PET-positive individuals had increased Aβ burden, elevated flortaucipir retention in Braak ROIs, and accelerated cognitive deterioration than concordant-negative persons. Noteworthy, discordant participants with normal PET exhibited reduced flortaucipir uptake in Braak stage ROIs and slower rates of cognitive decline, relative to those PET-positive. Therefore, individuals with PET abnormality appeared to have advanced tau pathological changes and poorer cognitive function, regardless of the plasma status. Furthermore, these results were found only in individuals with Aβ pathology.


Our results indicate that plasma and CSF p-tau181 abnormalities associated with amyloidosis occur simultaneously in the progression of AD pathogenesis and related cognitive decline, before tau-PET turns positive.