Tau, a microtubule-associated phosphoprotein, was identified as a definite component of paired helical filaments which progressively accumulate in Alzheimer's disease brain. To learn more about tau in the aged brain, we have isolated and sequenced a cDNA clone encoding tau from a cDNA library of an aged human brain. The cloned cDNA sequence included a new insert of 93 nucleotides, which added a fourth repeat to the three-repeat type of tau already reported. Perhaps, this four-repeat type of tau is predominant in normal aged brain. In contrast, the sequence analysis of paired helical filaments showed that the integrated tau is of three-repeat type. This indicates that a distinct form of tau is selectively incorporated into paired helical filaments.