Defects in the autophagy lysosomal pathway in a cell model of disease-associated tau

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BACKGROUND: Intracellular accumulation of insoluble tau is an important hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related tauopathies. We have previously identified in human tauopathy brain a truncated tau species (Tau35), comprising the C-terminal half with four microtubule-binding repeats. Minimal Tau35 expression in transgenic mice results in a progressive tauopathy phenotype including tau phosphorylation and aggregation, cognitive and behavioural abnormalities and impaired protein clearance. The autophagy-lysosomal pathway (ALP) plays a crucial role in the clearance of protein aggregates and defects in ALP are associated with the pathogenesis of AD. We sought to explore the effect of Tau35 expression on the ALP and whether autophagy is disrupted due to lysosomal dysfunction. METHODS: Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells stably expressing Tau35 (CHO-Tau35) or full-length human 2N4R tau (CHO-FL) were generated. Primary cortical neurons from Tau35 transgenic and wild-type mice were cultured for 14 days in vitro(DIV) and brain homogenates were prepared from mice aged 4 and 12 months. The effect of Tau35 on the ALP was examined using immunofluorescence and western blots. RESULT: Nuclear translocation of transcription factor EB (TFEB), a key mediator of lysosomal biogenesis, was significantly reduced in both CHO-FL and CHO-Tau35 cells. However, only CHO-Tau35 cells exhibited disrupted mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) activity and autophagic flux. Expression of ALP markers, including LC3-I/II, LAMP1, LAMP2 and cathepsin D, were also reduced in CHO-Tau35 cells and in post-symptomatic Tau35 transgenic mice. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that N-terminally cleaved tau damages both lysosomal clearance of cellular proteins and lysosomal biogenesis. The Tau35-expressing cultured neurons will provide a useful tool to explore molecular mechanisms underlying tau-induced lysosomal dysfunction, which may lead to the identification of novel therapeutic targets for dementia.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere051303
JournalAlzheimer's & dementia : the journal of the Alzheimer's Association
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


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