Staging tau pathology with tau PET in Alzheimer’s disease: a longitudinal study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


A biological research framework to define Alzheimer’ disease with dichotomized biomarker measurement was proposed by National Institute on Aging–Alzheimer’s Association (NIA–AA). However, it cannot characterize the hierarchy spreading pattern of tau pathology. To reflect in vivo tau progression using biomarker, we constructed a refined topographic 18F-AV-1451 tau PET staging scheme with longitudinal clinical validation. Seven hundred and thirty-four participants with baseline 18F-AV-1451 tau PET (baseline age 73.9 ± 7.7 years, 375 female) were stratified into five stages by a topographic PET staging scheme. Cognitive trajectories and clinical progression were compared across stages with or without further dichotomy of amyloid status, using linear mixed-effect models and Cox proportional hazard models. Significant cognitive decline was first observed in stage 1 when tau levels only increased in transentorhinal regions. Rates of cognitive decline and clinical progression accelerated from stage 2 to stage 3 and stage 4. Higher stages were also associated with greater CSF phosphorylated tau and total tau concentrations from stage 1. Abnormal tau accumulation did not appear with normal β-amyloid in neocortical regions but prompt cognitive decline by interacting with β-amyloid in temporal regions. Highly accumulated tau in temporal regions independently led to cognitive deterioration. Topographic PET staging scheme have potentials in early diagnosis, predicting disease progression, and studying disease mechanism. Characteristic tau spreading pattern in Alzheimer’s disease could be illustrated with biomarker measurement under NIA–AA framework. Clinical–neuroimaging–neuropathological studies in other cohorts are needed to validate these findings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number483
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (91849126, 81571245, and 81771148), the National Key R&D Program of China (2018YFC1314700), Shanghai Municipal Science and Technology Major Project (No. 2018SHZDZX01) and ZHANGJIANG LAB, Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute, and the State Key Laboratory of Neurobiology and Frontiers Center for Brain Science of Ministry of Education, Fudan University. Data collection and sharing for this project were funded by the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) (National Institutes of Health Grant U01 AG024904) and DOD ADNI (Department of Defense award number W81XWH-12-2-0012). ADNI is funded by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and through generous contributions from the following: AbbVie, Alzheimer’s Association; Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation; Araclon Biotech; BioClinica, Inc.; Biogen; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; CereSpir, Inc.; Cogstate; Eisai Inc.; Elan Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Eli Lilly and Company; EuroImmun; F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd and its affiliated company Genentech, Inc.; Fujirebio; GE Healthcare; IXICO Ltd.; Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy Research & Development, LLC.; Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development LLC.; Lumosity; Lundbeck; Merck & Co., Inc.; Meso Scale Diagnostics, LLC.; NeuroRx Research; Neurotrack Technologies; Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation; Pfizer Inc.; Piramal Imaging; Servier; Takeda Pharmaceutical Company; and Transition Therapeutics. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is providing funds to support ADNI clinical sites in Canada. Private sector contributions are facilitated by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health ( The grantee organization is the Northern California Institute for Research and Education, and the study is coordinated by the Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute at the University of Southern California. ADNI data are disseminated by the Laboratory for Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


Dive into the research topics of 'Staging tau pathology with tau PET in Alzheimer’s disease: a longitudinal study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this