Intercellular transfer of tau aggregates and spreading of tau pathology: Implications for therapeutic strategies

Neuropharmacology. 2014 Jan:76 Pt A:9-15. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2013.08.037. Epub 2013 Sep 17.


Filaments made of hyperphosphorylated tau protein are encountered in a group of neurodegenerative disorders termed tauopathies. The most prevalent tauopathy, Alzheimer's disease (AD), additionally presents with extracellular deposits of the amyloid-β peptide (Aβ). Current symptomatic treatments have shown short term benefits in reducing cognitive symptoms as well as behavioral abnormalities in patients with mild to moderate AD but there is still no effective treatment to prevent or reverse AD. For decades, the amyloid cascade hypothesis of AD dominated basic research and focused pharmaceutical interest on Aβ. However, the existence of tauopathies that are devoid of Aβ deposits, together with the discovery of mutations in the tau gene leading to frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17 (FTDP-17T), confirmed the importance of tau per se in disease. Tau became an interesting disease target in its own right. We will review here recent research on cell-to-cell propagation of tau pathology, which we believe to be central to disease progression, and discuss tau immunotherapy in the light of these findings. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled 'The Synaptic Basis of Neurodegenerative Disorders'.

Keywords: Extracellular tau; Tau immunotherapy; Tau transgenic mouse models; Tauopathy propagation; Tauopathy transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / immunology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Immunization*
  • Tauopathies / drug therapy*
  • Tauopathies / metabolism*
  • tau Proteins / genetics
  • tau Proteins / immunology*
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • tau Proteins