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Concept: Tau protein


In recent years consumption of canola oil has increased due to lower cost compared with olive oil and the perception that it shares its health benefits. However, no data are available on the effect of canola oil intake on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathogenesis. Herein, we investigated the effect of chronic daily consumption of canola oil on the phenotype of a mouse model of AD that develops both plaques and tangles (3xTg). To this end mice received either regular chow or a chow diet supplemented with canola oil for 6 months. At this time point we found that chronic exposure to the canola-rich diet resulted in a significant increase in body weight and impairments in their working memory together with decrease levels of post-synaptic density protein-95, a marker of synaptic integrity, and an increase in the ratio of insoluble Aβ 42/40. No significant changes were observed in tau phosphorylation and neuroinflammation. Taken together, our findings do not support a beneficial effect of chronic canola oil consumption on two important aspects of AD pathophysiology which includes memory impairments as well as synaptic integrity. While more studies are needed, our data do not justify the current trend aimed at replacing olive oil with canola oil.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Neuron, Fatty acid, Neurology, Ratio, Semantic memory, Tau protein, Alois Alzheimer


Filamentous inclusions made of hyperphosphorylated tau are characteristic of numerous human neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, tangle-only dementia, Pick disease, argyrophilic grain disease (AGD), progressive supranuclear palsy, and corticobasal degeneration. In Alzheimer’s disease and AGD, it has been shown that filamentous tau appears to spread in a stereotypic manner as the disease progresses. We previously demonstrated that the injection of brain extracts from human mutant P301S tau-expressing transgenic mice into the brains of mice transgenic for wild-type human tau (line ALZ17) resulted in the assembly of wild-type human tau into filaments and the spreading of tau inclusions from the injection sites to anatomically connected brain regions. Here we injected brain extracts from humans who had died with various tauopathies into the hippocampus and cerebral cortex of ALZ17 mice. Argyrophilic tau inclusions formed in all cases and following the injection of the corresponding brain extracts, we recapitulated the hallmark lesions of AGD, PSP and CBD. Similar inclusions also formed after intracerebral injection of brain homogenates from human tauopathies into nontransgenic mice. Moreover, the induced formation of tau aggregates could be propagated between mouse brains. These findings suggest that once tau aggregates have formed in discrete brain areas, they become self-propagating and spread in a prion-like manner.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Brain, Cerebral cortex, Neurodegenerative disorders, Dementia, Progressive supranuclear palsy, Tau protein, Tauopathy


Reduced bone mineral density (BMD) and its clinical sequelae, osteoporosis, occur at a much greater rate the rate in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), often emerging early in the disease before significant cognitive decline is seen. Reduced BMD translates to increased bone fracture risk, decreased quality of life, and increased mortality for AD patients. However, the mechanism responsible for this observation is unclear. We hypothesize that bone loss is an additional component of an AD prodrome, changes that emerge prior to dementia and are mediated by dysfunction of the central serotonergic pathways. We characterized the skeletal phenotype of htau mice that express human forms of the microtubule-associated protein tau that become pathologically hyperphosphorylated in AD. Using radiographic densitometry, we measured BMD in female and male htau mice from 2-6 months of age-time-points prior to the presence of significant tauopathy in the hippocampal/entorhinal regions characteristic of this model. We found a significantly reduced BMD phenotype in htau mice that was most pronounced in males. Using western blotting and immunofluorescence, we showed overall reduced tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) protein in htau brainstem and a 70% reduction in TPH-positive cells in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN)-a pivotal structure in the regulation of the adult skeleton. Elevations of hyperphosphorylated tau (ptau) proteins were also measured in brainstem, and co-labeled immunofluorescence studies showed presence of ptau in TPH-positive cells of the DRN as early as 4 months of age in htau mice. Together, these findings demonstrate that reduced BMD occurs earlier than overt degeneration in a tau-based AD model and that pathological changes in the tau phosphorylation occur in the serotonin-producing neurons of the brainstem raphe in these mice. This illuminates a need to define a mechanistic relationship between bone loss and serotonergic deficits in early AD.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Osteoporosis, Gene, Bone density, Skeletal system, Serotonin, Skeleton, Tau protein


A central question in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is whether the neuritic plaque is necessary and sufficient for the development of tau pathology. Hyperphosphorylation of tau is found within dystrophic neurites surrounding β-amyloid deposits in AD mouse models but the pathological conversion of tau is absent. Likewise, expression of a human tau repeat domain in mice is insufficient to drive the pathological conversion of tau. Here we developed an Aβ-amyloidosis mouse model that expresses the human tau repeat domain and show that in these mice, the neuritic plaque facilitates the pathological conversion of wild-type tau. We show that this tau fragment seeds the neuritic plaque-dependent pathological conversion of wild-type tau that spreads from the cortex and hippocampus to the brain stem. These results establish that in addition to the neuritic plaque, a second determinant is required to drive the conversion of wild-type tau.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Neuron, Gene, Brain, Semantic memory, Mice, Necessary and sufficient condition, Tau protein


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an age-related neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive memory deficits and other cognitive disturbances. Neuropathologically, AD is characterized by the progressive loss of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons that innervate the hippocampus and cortex and the abnormal extracellular accumulation of amyloid-β and intracellular tau protein. Current research on AD is focused on the mechanisms underlying the abnormal oligomerization, fibrillation, and accumulation of the amyloid-β and tau proteins, mechanisms that may alter the dynamics of this accumulation and on experimental therapeutics approaches aimed at the clearance of the abnormally folded proteins and other potentially neuroprotective interventions. This review will summarize the main areas of investigation in AD and present ways forward for future work.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Brain, Neurology, Acetylcholine, Tau protein, Basal forebrain, Tauopathy, Proteopathy


The accumulation of amyloidogenic proteins is a pathological hallmark of neurodegenerative disorders. The aberrant accumulation of the microtubule associating protein tau (MAPT, tau) into toxic oligomers and amyloid deposits is a primary pathology in tauopathies, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Intrinsically disordered proteins, like tau, are enriched with proline residues that regulate both secondary structure and aggregation propensity. The orientation of proline residues is regulated by cis/trans peptidyl-prolyl isomerases (PPIases). Here we show that cyclophilin 40 (CyP40), a PPIase, dissolves tau amyloids in vitro. Additionally, CyP40 ameliorated silver-positive and oligomeric tau species in a mouse model of tau accumulation, preserving neuronal health and cognition. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) revealed that CyP40 interacts with tau at sites rich in proline residues. CyP40 was also able to interact with and disaggregate other aggregating proteins that contain prolines. Moreover, CyP40 lacking PPIase activity prevented its capacity for disaggregation in vitro. Finally, we describe a unique structural property of CyP40 that may permit disaggregation to occur in an energy-independent manner. This study identifies a novel human protein disaggregase and, for the first time, demonstrates its capacity to dissolve intracellular amyloids.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Protein, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Prion, Amyloid, Quaternary structure, Beta sheet, Tau protein


Neuronal inclusions of hyperphosphorylated and aggregated tau protein are a pathological hallmark of several neurodegenerative tauopathies, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The hypothesis of tau transmission in AD has emerged from histopathological studies of the spatial and temporal progression of tau pathology in postmortem patient brains. Increasing evidence in cellular and animal models supports the phenomenon of intercellular spreading of tau. However, the molecular and cellular mechanisms of pathogenic tau transmission remain unknown. The studies described herein investigate tau pathology propagation using human neurons derived from induced pluripotent stem cells. Neurons were seeded with full-length human tau monomers and oligomers and chronic effects on neuronal viability and function were examined over time. Tau oligomer-treated neurons exhibited an increase in aggregated and phosphorylated pathological tau. These effects were associated with neurite retraction, loss of synapses, aberrant calcium homeostasis, and imbalanced neurotransmitter release. In contrast, tau monomer treatment did not produce any measureable changes. This work supports the hypothesis that tau oligomers are toxic species that can drive the spread of tau pathology and neurodegeneration.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Neuron, Pathology, Stem cell, Cell biology, Action potential, Acetylcholine, Tau protein


Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a tauopathy associated with prior exposure to repetitive head impacts, such as those incurred through American football and other collision sports. Diagnosis is made through neuropathological examination. Many of the clinical features of CTE are common in the general population, with and without a history of head impact exposure, making clinical diagnosis difficult. As is now common in the diagnosis of other neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, there is a need for methods to diagnose CTE during life through objective biomarkers.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Greek loanwords, Neurology, Neurodegenerative disorders, Dementia, Tau protein, Tauopathy, Proteopathy


The microtubule-associated protein Tau plays a central role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Although Tau interaction with membranes is thought to affect some of its physiological functions and its aggregation properties, the sequence determinants and the structural and functional consequences of such interactions remain poorly understood. Here, we report that the interaction of Tau with vesicles results in the formation of highly stable protein/phospholipid complexes. These complexes are toxic to primary hippocampal cultures and are detected by MC-1, an antibody recognizing pathological Tau conformations. The core of these complexes is comprised of the PHF6* and PHF6 hexapeptide motifs, the latter in a β-strand conformation. Studies using Tau-derived peptides enabled the design of mutants that disrupt Tau interactions with phospholipids without interfering with its ability to form fibrils, thus providing powerful tools for uncoupling these processes and investigating the role of membrane interactions in regulating Tau function, aggregation and toxicity.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Protein, Cell membrane, Sociology, Peptide, Semantic memory, Dehydron, Tau protein


Lowering total tau levels is an attractive therapeutic strategy for Alzheimer’s disease and other tauopathies. High-throughput screening in neurons derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) is a powerful tool to identify tau-targeted therapeutics. However, such screens have been hampered by heterogeneous neuronal production, high cost and low yield, and multi-step differentiation procedures. We engineered an isogenic iPSC line that harbors an inducible neurogenin 2 transgene, a transcription factor that rapidly converts iPSCs to neurons, integrated at the AAVS1 locus. Using a simplified two-step protocol, we differentiated these iPSCs into cortical glutamatergic neurons with minimal well-to-well variability. We developed a robust high-content screening assay to identify tau-lowering compounds in LOPAC and identified adrenergic receptors agonists as a class of compounds that reduce endogenous human tau. These techniques enable the use of human neurons for high-throughput screening of drugs to treat neurodegenerative disease.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Neuron, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cell biology, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Tau protein