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Table 1 Terminology for main tau assemblies and definition criteria

From: What is the evidence that tau pathology spreads through prion-like propagation?

Name Definition Structural criteria Molecular criteria
Tau pathology Broad term designing abnormal molecular changes of normal tau as well as morphological changes. Mislocalization of tau and/or pathological tau assembly in inclusion or aggregate. Post-translational modifications of tau. Tau insolubility.
Tau inclusion Morphologically distinct subcellular structure inside a cell. Microscopically visible structure. Made of tau aggregates. Properties of tau aggregates.
Tau aggregate Assembly of tau into oligomers, fibrils, filaments, and NFT Molecular tau assembly based on highly ordered ß-sheet structure. Positive with ß-sheet (amyloid) sensitive dyes (Thioflavine T, Congo Red, LCOs). Tau hyperphosphorylation
Tau seed A tau species inducing aggregation of tau Molecular tau assemblies of various size providing a template Positive with ß-sheet sensitive dyes
Liquid coacervates of tau Membraneless organelles in a state of Liquid-liquid phase separation Coacervation of tau into liquid droplets Can acquire ß-sheet structure.
Tangles Neuronal tau inclusions in somata Composed of bundles of PHFs and SFs. Gallyas and Campbell-Switzer positive. 3R and 4R tau positive in AD
Neuropil threads Tau inclusions in nerve cell dendrites Composed of bundles of PHFs and SFs. Gallyas and Campbell-Switzer positive. 3R and 4R tau positive in AD
Dystrophic neurites Axons forming the neuritic corona of plaques Nerve cell processes in contact with Aß deposits. Some of them contain PHFs and SFs and are Gallyas and Campbell-Switzer positive. 3R and 4R tau positive in AD
Argyrophilic grains Neuronal granular tau inclusions in dendrites Tau filaments. Gallyas positive. Campbell-Switzer negative. 4R tau positive in AGD
Pick bodies Spherical tau inclusions in nerve cell somata Filamentous and vesicular material. Gallyas-negative. Campbell-Switzer positive. 3R tau positive in Pick disease.
Oligodendroglial coiled bodies Tau inclusions in cell bodies of oligodendrocytes PHF/SF like filaments. Gallyas positive. Campbell-Switzer negative. 4R tau positive in PSP and CBD
Globular oligodendroglial inclusions Globular oligodendroglial tau inclusion Gallyas positive. Mainly 4R tau positive in GGTs
Tufted astrocytes Astrocytes with thin and long radial processes containing tau inclusions Tau filaments in cytoplasm and proximal portions of astrocytic processes. Gallyas positive. Campbell-Switzer negative. 4R tau positive in PSP
Astrocytic plaques Astrocytes containing tau inclusions in a corona-like arrangment Tau filaments in distal portions of astrocytic processes. Gallyas positive. Campbell-Switzer negative. 4R tau positive in CBD
Thorn-shaped astrocytes Astrocytes with thorn-shaped processes containing tau inclusions Spine-like perinuclear tau filaments. Gallyas positive. 4R tau positive in ARTAG
  1. AD Alzheimer’s disease, AGD Argyrophilic grain disease, ARTAG, Ageing-related tau astrogliopathy, CBD Corticobasal degeneration, GGTs Globular glial tauopathies, PSP Progressive supranuclear palsy, LCOs Luminescent conjugated oligothiophenes
  2. Each of the various tau inclusions is positive with some LCOs
  3. A common feature of all tau assemblies is their immunoreactivity with tau antibodies, although peculiar tau epitopes can distinguish between them. For more details on specific tau inclusions, tauopathies, and silver staining properties see [9, 54, 86, 131]