Curcumin Labeling of Neuronal Fibrillar Tau Inclusions in Human Brain Samples

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The study aimed to characterize curcumin (CCM) (fluorescent yellow curry pigment) labeling of neuronal fibrillar tau inclusions (FTIs) in representative cases of 3 main tauopathies: Alzheimer disease(AD), progressive supranuclear palsy, and Pick disease. After identification of FTIs in hematoxylin and eosin-stained brain sections, sequential labeling and signal colocalization image analysis were used to compare CCM with thioflavine S (ThS), monoclonal antibody AT8 immunofluorescence, and Gallyas silver staining by visualizing the same FTIs. Curcumin preference for specific tau isoforms was tested with 3-repeat tau and 4-repeat tau isoform-specific immunofluorescence. Curcumin proved highly comparable to ThS and Gallyas staining in its detection of FTIs. When comparing CCM with AT8, ThS, andGallyas staining in AD and progressive supranuclear palsy, 3 types of neuronal tau deposits were observed: nonfibrillar intracellular material labeled only with AT8, fibrillar intracellular inclusions labeled byall the methods, and fibrillar extracellular FTIs labeled with CCM, ThS, and Gallyas staining but not with AT8. Although CCM labeling overlapped with both 3-repeat tau and 4-repeat tau in AD, it did not label 3-repeat tau FTIs in Pick disease probably because of their different ultrastructural characteristics. In summary, CCM fluorescence reliably detected neuronal FTIs in AD and progressive supranuclear palsy and surpassed AT8 immunolabeling in visualizing later stages ofFTIs, including ghost tangles. These results provide the basis for potential future applications of CCM binding of tau aggregates in diagnostic pathology and in vivo.

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