Characterisation of tau in the human and rodent enteric nervous system under physiological conditions and in tauopathy

Arthur Lionnet, Matthew Austen James Wade, Anne-Gaelle Corbille, Alice Prigent, Sebastien Paillusson, Maddalena Tasselli, Jacques Gonzales, Emilie Durieu, Malvyne Derkinderen, Emmanuel Coron, Emilie Duchalais, Michael Neunlist, Michael S. Perkinton, Diane Pamela Hanger, Pascal Derkinderen, Wendy Jane Noble

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Tau is normally a highly soluble phosphoprotein found predominantly in neurons. Six different isoforms of tau are expressed in the adult human CNS. Under pathological conditions, phosphorylated tau aggregates are a defining feature of neurodegenerative disorders called tauopathies. Recent findings have suggested a potential role of the gut-brain axis in CNS homeostasis, and therefore we set out to examine the isoform profile and phosphorylation state of tau in the enteric nervous system (ENS) under physiological conditions and in tauopathies. Surgical specimens of human colon from controls, Parkinson’s disease (PD) and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) patients were analyzed by Western Blot and immunohistochemistry using a panel of anti-tau antibodies. We found that adult human ENS primarily expresses two tau isoforms, localized in the cell bodies and neuronal processes. We did not observe any difference in the enteric tau isoform profile and phosphorylation state between PSP, PD and control subjects. The htau mouse model of tauopathy also expressed two main isoforms of human tau in the ENS, and there were no apparent differences in ENS tau localization or phosphorylation between wild-type and htau mice. Tau in both human and mouse ENS was found to be phosphorylated but poorly susceptible to dephosphorylation with lambda phosphatase. To investigate ENS tau phosphorylation further, primary cultures from rat enteric neurons, which express five isoforms of tau, were pharmacologically manipulated to show that ENS tau phosphorylation state can be regulated, at least in vitro. Our study is the first to characterize tau in the rodent and human ENS. As a whole, our findings provide a basis to unravel the functions of tau in the ENS and to further investigate the possibility of pathological changes in enteric neuropathies and tauopathies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
JournalActa Neuropathologica Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2018


  • Tau; tau isoform; tau phosphorylation; enteric nervous system; progressive supranuclear palsy; Parkinson’s disease; gut; biopsy; htau mouse.


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