A comparison between tau and amyloid-β cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers in chronic traumatic encephalopathy and Alzheimer disease

Katherine W. Turk, Alexandra Geada, Victor E. Alvarez, Weiming Xia, Jonathan D. Cherry, Raymond Nicks, Gaoyuan Meng, Sarah Daley, Yorghos Tripodis, Bertrand R. Huber, Andrew E. Budson, Brigid Dwyer, Neil W. Kowall, Robert C. Cantu, Lee E. Goldstein, Douglas I. Katz, Robert A. Stern, Michael L. Alosco, Jesse Mez, Ann C. McKeeThor D. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tau and beta-amyloid levels in chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease which can be clinically indistinguishable from Alzheimer’s disease (AD), are largely unknown. We examined postmortem CSF analytes among participants with autopsy confirmed CTE and AD. Methods: In this cross-sectional study 192 participants from the Boston University AD Research Center, VA-BU-CLF Center, and Framingham Heart Study (FHS) had post-mortem CSF collected at autopsy. Participants were divided into pathological groups based on AD and CTE criteria, with 61 CTE participants (18 low, 43 high stage), 79 AD participants (23 low, 56 intermediate to high), 11 participants with CTE combined with AD, and 41 participants lacking both CTE and AD neuropathology. The Meso Scale Discovery immunoassay system was utilized to measure amyloid-beta (Aβ1-40,1-42), total tau (t-tau), and phosphorylated tau (p-tau181 and p-tau231). CSF analytes were then compared across the pathological groups: no CTE/no AD (control), Low CTE, Low AD, High CTE, Intermediate/High AD, and AD+CTE. Results: Among the Low disease state groups, the Low CTE group had significantly higher levels of p-tau231 versus the control group and compared to the Low AD group. The Low CTE group was also found to have significantly lower levels of Aβ1-42 compared to the control group. The high CTE group had higher levels of p-tau231 and lower levels of Aβ1-42 compared to Intermediate/High AD group. Conclusions: Importantly, p-tau231 and Aβ1-42 were predictors of diagnosis of CTE vs. control and CTE vs. AD. Increased CSF p-tau231 is a promising potentially sensitive biomarker of CTE, and CSF Aβ1-42 needs further investigation in CTE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number28
Pages (from-to)28
JournalAlzheimer's Research and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 9 2022


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Amyloid beta
  • Biomarkers
  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
  • Tau
  • Phosphorylation
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy/diagnosis
  • Peptide Fragments/cerebrospinal fluid
  • tau Proteins/cerebrospinal fluid
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides/cerebrospinal fluid
  • Biomarkers/cerebrospinal fluid
  • Alzheimer Disease/cerebrospinal fluid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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