Tau accumulation is a major pathological hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other tauopathies, but the mechanism(s) of tau aggregation remains unclear. Taking advantage of the identification of tau filament cores by cryoelectron microscopy, we demonstrate that the AD tau core possesses the intrinsic ability to spontaneously aggregate in the absence of an inducer, with antibodies generated against AD tau core filaments detecting AD tau pathology. The AD tau core also drives aggregation of full-length wild-type tau, increases seeding potential, and templates abnormal forms of tau present in brain homogenates and antemortem cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from patients with AD in an ultrasensitive real-time quaking-induced conversion (QuIC) assay. Finally, we show that the filament cores in corticobasal degeneration (CBD) and Pick’s disease (PiD) similarly assemble into filaments under physiological conditions. These results document an approach to modeling tau aggregation and have significant implications for in vivo investigation of tau transmission and biomarker development.
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