Phosphorylated Tau Epitope of Alzheimer’s Disease Is Coupled to Axon Development in the Avian Central Nervous System

Whitney Pope, S. Ather Enam, Nitin Bawa, Barney E. Miller, Hossein A. Ghanbari, William L. Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


The monoclonal antibody PHF-1 recognizes phosphorylated tau isoforms present in paired helical filaments of Alzheimer's disease. We have found that PHF-1 immunoreactivity is present in chick brain, which expresses three major PHF-1-reactive proteins at the same molecular weights seen in humans. The developmental pattern of expression suggests a functional role in differentiation, rather than in programmed nerve cell death. Expression of PHF-1 immunoreactivity in developing retina was highly cell selective, showing robust staining of ganglion cells, the only long-axon neuron of the seven major retina cell types. The majority of ganglion cells were PHF-1 positive. The developmental window of expression extended at least from E6 through P0, well outside the period of embryonic ganglion cell death. Mature cells did not show PHF-1 immunoreactivity. In the embryo, staining was particularly robust in ganglion cell axons (optic fiber layer), and association of PHF-1 reactivity with axonal tracts also was seen in developing forebrain. PHF-1 polarization occurred at ages when staining with polyclonal anti-tau did not show axonal selectivity. Similarly, in cell cultures, PHF-1 immunoreactivity became localized to single neurites, but polyclonal anti-tau did not. These results indicate that, rather than being associated with cell degeneration, PHF-1 immunoreactivity in the developing nervous system is associated with early stages of axon information, both in vivo and in vitro. Therefore, expression of PHF-1 immunoreactive proteins in Alzheimer's disease suggests that paired helical filament formation might be triggered by mechanisms related to axon regeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-113
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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