Transcellular Spreading of Tau in Tauopathies

Chembiochem. 2018 Dec 4;19(23):2424-2432. doi: 10.1002/cbic.201800288. Epub 2018 Oct 12.


Tau, a microtubule-associated protein playing a key role in a group of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, spreads throughout the brain, inducing pathology. A model akin to the spreading of prions has been raised owing to similar characteristics of inducing an abnormal protein conformation as a method of self-amplification, spreading protein aggregates over anatomically linked pathways. The search to identify the "seeds" that induce conformational change has received much attention; however, less is known about the mechanisms by which tau is transmitted from cell to cell, so-called "transcellular spreading". In this review, we gather evidence regarding the spreading of tau throughout the brain and provide an overview of methods by which tau can be released from neurons as well as taken up. Furthermore, we bring together mechanisms of neurotoxicity behind tau spreading. Advancing our understanding about the spreading of tau can guide the search for therapeutic options for multiple neurodegenerative diseases aggregating tau.

Keywords: aggregation; cell-to-cell spreading; neurological agents; tauopathy; transmission.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Protein Aggregation, Pathological / physiopathology
  • Tauopathies / physiopathology*
  • Transcytosis / physiology
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • tau Proteins