Small misfolded Tau species are internalized via bulk endocytosis and anterogradely and retrogradely transported in neurons

J Biol Chem. 2013 Jan 18;288(3):1856-70. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.394528. Epub 2012 Nov 27.


The accumulation of Tau into aggregates is associated with key pathological events in frontotemporal lobe degeneration (FTD-Tau) and Alzheimer disease (AD). Recent data have shown that misfolded Tau can be internalized by cells in vitro (Frost, B., Jacks, R. L., and Diamond, M. I. (2009) J. Biol. Chem. 284, 12845-12852) and propagate pathology in vivo (Clavaguera, F., Bolmont, T., Crowther, R. A., Abramowski, D., Frank, S., Probst, A., Fraser, G., Stalder, A. K., Beibel, M., Staufenbiel, M., Jucker, M., Goedert, M., and Tolnay, M. (2009) Nat. Cell Biol. 11, 909-913; Lasagna-Reeves, C. A., Castillo-Carranza, D. L., Sengupta, U., Guerrero-Munoz, M. J., Kiritoshi, T., Neugebauer, V., Jackson, G. R., and Kayed, R. (2012) Sci. Rep. 2, 700). Here we show that recombinant Tau misfolds into low molecular weight (LMW) aggregates prior to assembly into fibrils, and both extracellular LMW Tau aggregates and short fibrils, but not monomers, long fibrils, nor long filaments purified from brain extract are taken up by neurons. Remarkably, misfolded Tau can be internalized at the somatodendritic compartment, or the axon terminals and it can be transported anterogradely, retrogradely, and can enhance tauopathy in vivo. The internalized Tau aggregates co-localize with dextran, a bulk-endocytosis marker, and with the endolysosomal compartments. Our findings demonstrate that exogenous Tau can be taken up by cells, uptake depends on both the conformation and size of the Tau aggregates and once inside cells, Tau can be transported. These data provide support for observations that tauopathy can spread trans-synaptically in vivo, via cell-to-cell transfer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Dextrans / metabolism
  • Endocytosis
  • Endosomes / metabolism*
  • Endosomes / pathology
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Molecular Weight
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Folding
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Synaptic Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Vesicles / pathology
  • tau Proteins / chemistry*
  • tau Proteins / genetics
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Dextrans
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • tau Proteins