Tau missorting and spastin-induced microtubule disruption in neurodegeneration: Alzheimer Disease and Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia

Mol Neurodegener. 2015 Dec 21:10:68. doi: 10.1186/s13024-015-0064-1.


In Alzheimer Disease (AD), the mechanistic connection of the two major pathological hallmarks, namely deposition of Amyloid-beta (Aβ) in the form of extracellular plaques, and the pathological changes of the intracellular protein Tau (such as phosphorylation, missorting, aggregation), is not well understood. Genetic evidence from AD and Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21), and animal models thereof, suggests that aberrant production of Aβ is upstream of Tau aggregation, but also points to Tau as a critical effector in the pathological process. Yet, the cascade of events leading from increased levels of Aβ to Tau-dependent toxicity remains a matter of debate.Using primary neurons exposed to oligomeric forms of Aβ, we have found that Tau becomes mislocalized (missorted) into the somatodendritic compartment. Missorting of Tau correlates with loss of microtubules and downstream consequences such as loss of mature spines, loss of synaptic activity, and mislocalization of mitochondria.In this cascade, missorting of Tau induces mislocalization of TTLL6 (Tubulin-Tyrosine-Ligase-Like 6) into the dendrites. TTLL6 induces polyglutamylation of microtubules, which acts as a trigger for spastin mediated severing of dendritic microtubules. Loss of microtubules makes cells unable to maintain transport of mitochondria, which in turn results in synaptic dysfunction and loss of mature spines. These pathological changes are absent in TauKO derived primary neurons. Thus, Tau mediated mislocalization of TTLL6 and spastin activation reveals a pathological gain of function for Tau and spastin in this cellular model system of AD.In contrast, in hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) caused by mutations of the gene encoding spastin (spg4 alias SPAST), spastin function in terms of microtubule severing is decreased at least for the gene product of the mutated allele, resulting in overstable microtubules in disease model systems. Whether total spastin severing activity or microtubule stability in human disease is also affected is not yet clear. No human disease has been associated so far with the long-chain polyglutamylation enzyme TTLL6, or the other TTLLs (1,5,11) possibly involved.Here we review the findings supporting a role for Tau, spastin and TTLL6 in AD and other tauopathies, HSP and neurodegeneration, and summarize possible therapeutic approaches for AD and HSP.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Microtubules / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Spastic Paraplegia, Hereditary / metabolism*
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • tau Proteins