Pathological Tau Strains from Human Brains Recapitulate the Diversity of Tauopathies in Nontransgenic Mouse Brain

J Neurosci. 2017 Nov 22;37(47):11406-11423. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1230-17.2017. Epub 2017 Oct 20.


Pathological tau aggregates occur in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other neurodegenerative tauopathies. It is not clearly understood why tauopathies vary greatly in the neuroanatomical and histopathological patterns of tau aggregation, which contribute to clinical heterogeneity in these disorders. Recent studies have shown that tau aggregates may form distinct structural conformations, known as tau strains. Here, we developed a novel model to test the hypothesis that cell-to-cell transmission of different tau strains occurs in nontransgenic (non-Tg) mice, and to investigate whether there are strain-specific differences in the pattern of tau transmission. By injecting pathological tau extracted from postmortem brains of AD (AD-tau), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP-tau), and corticobasal degeneration (CBD-tau) patients into different brain regions of female non-Tg mice, we demonstrated the induction and propagation of endogenous mouse tau aggregates. Specifically, we identified differences in tau strain potency between AD-tau, CBD-tau, and PSP-tau in non-Tg mice. Moreover, differences in cell-type specificity of tau aggregate transmission were observed between tau strains such that only PSP-tau and CBD-tau strains induce astroglial and oligodendroglial tau inclusions, recapitulating the diversity of neuropathology in human tauopathies. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the neuronal connectome, but not the tau strain, determines which brain regions develop tau pathology. Finally, CBD-tau- and PSP-tau-injected mice showed spatiotemporal transmission of glial tau pathology, suggesting glial tau transmission contributes to the progression of tauopathies. Together, our data suggest that different tau strains determine seeding potency and cell-type specificity of tau aggregation that underlie the diversity of human tauopathies.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Tauopathies show great clinical and neuropathological heterogeneity, despite the fact that tau aggregates in each disease. This heterogeneity could be due to tau aggregates forming distinct structural conformations, or strains. We now report the development of a sporadic tauopathy model to study human tau strains by intracerebrally injecting nontransgenic mice with pathological tau enriched from human tauopathy brains. We show human tau strains seed different types and cellular distributions of tau neuropathology in our model that recapitulate the heterogeneity seen in these human diseases.

Keywords: human tauopathies; tau mouse model; tau strains; tau transmission.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism
  • Tauopathies / classification
  • Tauopathies / metabolism*
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • tau Proteins