Tau aggregates propagate in brain cells and transmit to neighboring cells as well as anatomically connected brain regions by prion-like mechanisms. Soluble tau aggregates (tau oligomers) are the most toxic species that initiate neurodegeneration in tauopathies, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). Exogenous tau aggregates have been shown to be internalized by brain cells; however, the precise cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie the internalization of tau oligomers (TauO) remain elusive. Using brain-derived tau oligomers (BDTOs) from AD, PSP, and DLB patients, we investigated neuronal internalization mechanisms of BDTOs, including the heparan sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG)-mediated pathway, clathrin-mediated pathway, and caveolae-mediated pathway. Here, we demonstrated that the HSPG-mediated pathway regulates internalization of BDTOs from AD and DLB, while HSPG-mediated and other alternative pathways are involved in the internalization of PSP-derived tau oligomers. HSPG antagonism significantly reduced the internalization of TauO, prevented tau translocation to the endosomal–lysosomal system, and decreased levels of hyperphosphorylated tau in neurons, the well-known contributor for neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) accumulation, degeneration of neurons, and cognitive decline. Furthermore, siRNA-mediated silencing of heparan sulfate (HS)-synthesizing enzyme, exostosin-2, leads to decreased internalization of BDTOs, prevented tau-induced autophagy–lysosomal pathway impairment, and decreased hyperphosphorylated tau levels. Collectively, these findings suggest that HSPG-mediated endocytosis and exostsin-2 are involved in neuronal internalization of TauO and subsequent tau-dependent neuropathology in AD and DLB.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology
- Cancer Research