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Antibodies are essential research tools whose performance directly impacts research conclusions and reproducibility. Owing to its central role in Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, hundreds of distinct antibody clones have been developed against the microtubule-associated protein Tau and its multiple proteoforms. Despite this breadth of offer, limited understanding of their performance and poor antibody selectivity have hindered research progress. Here, we validate a large panel of Tau antibodies by Western blot (79 reagents) and immunohistochemistry (35 reagents). We address the reagents' ability to detect the target proteoform, selectivity, the impact of protein phosphorylation on antibody binding and performance in human brain samples. While most antibodies detected Tau at high levels, many failed to detect it at lower, endogenous levels. By WB, non-selective binding to other proteins affected over half of the antibodies tested, with several cross-reacting with the related MAP2 protein, whereas the "oligomeric Tau" T22 antibody reacted with monomeric Tau by WB, thus calling into question its specificity to Tau oligomers. Despite the presumption that "total" Tau antibodies are agnostic to post-translational modifications, we found that phosphorylation partially inhibits binding for many such antibodies, including the popular Tau-5 clone. We further combine high-sensitivity reagents, mass-spectrometry proteomics and cDNA sequencing to demonstrate that presumptive Tau "knockout" human cells continue to express residual protein arising through exon skipping, providing evidence of previously unappreciated gene plasticity. Finally, probing of human brain samples with a large panel of antibodies revealed the presence of C-term-truncated versions of all main Tau brain isoforms in both control and tauopathy donors. Ultimately, we identify a validated panel of Tau antibodies that can be employed in Western blotting and/or immunohistochemistry to reliably detect even low levels of Tau expression with high selectivity. This work represents an extensive resource that will enable the re-interpretation of published data, improve reproducibility in Tau research, and overall accelerate scientific progress.

Original publication




Journal article


Acta neuropathologica

Publication Date





JDRF/Wellcome Diabetes and Inflammation Laboratory, Nuffield Department of Medicine, Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, Roosevelt Drive, Oxford, UK.


Brain, Humans, Alzheimer Disease, tau Proteins, Antibodies, Blotting, Western, Immunohistochemistry, Reproducibility of Results, Phosphorylation