Human tauopathy-derived tau strains determine the substrates recruited for templated amplification

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • External authors:
  • Airi Tarutani
  • Haruka Miyata
  • Takashi Nonaka
  • Kazuko Hasegawa
  • Mari Yoshida
  • Yuko Saito
  • Shigeo Murayama
  • David Mann
  • Taisuke Tomita
  • Masato Hasegawa


Tauopathies are a subset of neurodegenerative diseases characterized by abnormal tau inclusions. Specifically, three-repeat tau and four-repeat tau in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), three-repeat tau in Pick's disease (PiD) and four-repeat in progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and corticobasal degeneration (CBD) form amyloid-like fibrous structures that accumulate in neurons and/or glial cells. Amplification and cell-to-cell transmission of abnormal tau based on the prion hypothesis are believed to explain the onset and progression of tauopathies. Recent studies support not only the self-propagation of abnormal tau, but also the presence of conformationally distinct tau aggregates, namely tau strains. Cryo-electron microscopy analyses of patient-derived tau filaments have revealed disease-specific ordered tau structures. However, it remains unclear whether the ultrastructural and biochemical properties of tau strains are inherited during the amplification of abnormal tau in the brain. In this study, we investigated template-dependent amplification of tau aggregates using a cellular model of seeded aggregation. Tau strains extracted from human tauopathies caused strain-dependent accumulation of insoluble filamentous tau in SH-SY5Y cells. The seeding activity towards full-length four-repeat tau substrate was highest in CBD-tau seeds, followed by PSP-tau and AD-tau seeds, while AD-tau seeds showed higher seeding activity than PiD-tau seeds towards three-repeat tau substrates. Abnormal tau amplified in cells inherited the ultrastructural and biochemical properties of the original seeds. These results strongly suggest that the structural differences of patient-derived tau strains underlie the diversity of tauopathies, and that seeded aggregation and filament formation mimicking the pathogenesis of sporadic tauopathy can be reproduced in cultured cells. Our results indicate that the disease-specific conformation of tau aggregates determines the tau isoform substrate that is recruited for templated amplification, and also influences the prion-like seeding activity.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Article numberawab091
JournalBrain : a journal of neurology
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2021