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Cerebrospinal fluid total tau concentration predicts clinical phenotype in Huntington's disease

Journal article
Authors F. B. Rodrigues
L. Byrne
P. McColgan
N. Robertson
S. J. Tabrizi
B. R. Leavitt
Henrik Zetterberg
E. J. Wild
Published in Journal of Neurochemistry
Volume 139
Issue 1
Pages 22-25
ISSN 0022-3042
Publication year 2016
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology
Pages 22-25
Language en
Keywords biomarkers, cerebrospinal fluid, Huntington disease, pilot projects, tau proteins
Subject categories Neurology, Clinical Laboratory Medicine


Huntington's disease (HD) is a hereditary neurodegenerative condition with no therapeutic intervention known to alter disease progression, but several trials are ongoing and biomarkers of disease progression are needed. Tau is an axonal protein, often altered in neurodegeneration, and recent studies pointed out its role on HD neuropathology. Our goal was to study whether cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tau is a biomarker of disease progression in HD. After informed consent, healthy controls, pre-symptomatic and symptomatic gene expansion carriers were recruited from two HD clinics. All participants underwent assessment with the Unified HD Rating Scale ’99 (UHDRS). CSF was obtained according to a standardized lumbar puncture protocol. CSF tau was quantified using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Comparisons between two groups were tested using ancova. Pearson's correlation coefficients were calculated for disease progression. Significance level was defined as p < 0.05. Seventy-six participants were included in this cross-sectional multicenter international pilot study. Age-adjusted CSF tau was significantly elevated in gene expansion carriers compared with healthy controls (p = 0.002). UHDRS total functional capacity was significantly correlated with CSF tau (r = −0.29, p = 0.004) after adjustment for age, and UHDRS total motor score was significantly correlated with CSF tau after adjustment for age (r = 0.32, p = 0.002). Several UHDRS cognitive tasks were also significantly correlated with CST total tau after age-adjustment. This study confirms that CSF tau concentrations in HD gene mutation carriers are increased compared with healthy controls and reports for the first time that CSF tau concentration is associated with phenotypic variability in HD. These conclusions strengthen the case for CSF tau as a biomarker in HD. (Figure presented.) In the era of novel targeted approaches to Huntington's disease, reliable biomarkers are needed. We quantified Tau protein, a marker of neuronal death, in cerebrospinal fluid and found it was increased in patients with Huntington's disease and predicted motor, cognitive, and functional disability in patients. It is therefore likely to be a biomarker of disease progression, and possibly of therapeutic response. Read the Editorial Highlight for this article on page 9. © 2016 The Authors. Journal of Neurochemistry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of International Society for Neurochemistry

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