Cellular and regional vulnerability in frontotemporal tauopathies

Shelley L. Forrest, Jillian J. Kril, Glenda M. Halliday

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


The frontotemporal tauopathies all deposit abnormal tau protein aggregates, but often of only certain isoforms and in distinguishing pathologies of five main types (neuronal Pick bodies, neurofibrillary tangles, astrocytic plaques, tufted astrocytes, globular glial inclusions and argyrophilic grains). In those with isoform specific tau aggregates glial pathologies are substantial, even though there is limited evidence that these cells normally produce tau protein. This review will assess the differentiating features and clinicopathological correlations of the frontotemporal tauopathies, the genetic predisposition for these different pathologies, their neuroanatomical selectivity, current observations on how they spread through the brain, and any potential contributing cellular and molecular changes. The findings show that diverse clinical phenotypes relate most to the brain region degenerating rather than the type of pathology involved, that different regions on the MAPT gene and novel risk genes are associated with specific tau pathologies, that the 4-repeat glial tauopathies do not follow individual patterns of spreading as identified for neuronal pathologies, and that genetic and pathological data indicate that neuroinflammatory mechanisms are involved. Each pathological frontotemporal tauopathy subtype with their distinct pathological features differ substantially in the cell type affected, morphology, biochemical and anatomical distribution of inclusions, a fundamental concept central to future success in understanding the disease mechanisms required for developing therapeutic interventions. Tau directed therapies targeting genetic mechanisms, tau aggregation and pathological spread are being trialled, although biomarkers that differentiate these diseases are required. Suggested areas of future research to address the regional and cellular vulnerabilities in frontotemporal tauopathies are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-727
Number of pages23
JournalActa Neuropathologica
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Argyrophilic grain disease
  • Corticobasal degeneration
  • Globular glial tauopathy
  • Neurofbrillary tangle predominant dementia
  • Pick’s disease
  • Primary age-related tauopathy
  • Progressive supranuclear palsy
  • Neurofibrillary tangle predominant dementia


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