Cell-to-Cell Transmission of Tau and α-Synuclein

Trends Mol Med. 2020 Oct;26(10):936-952. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2020.03.012. Epub 2020 May 1.


The stereotypical spread of pathological protein inclusions and clinicopathological heterogeneity are well described in neurodegenerative diseases. Accumulating evidence suggests that the former can be attributed to consecutive cell-to-cell transmission of pathological proteins between anatomically connected brain regions, while the latter has been hypothesized to result from the spread of conformationally distinct pathological protein aggregates, or strains. These emerging concepts have dramatically changed our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases. In this review, we first summarize the background and recent findings underpinning these concepts with a focus on two major pathological proteins: tau and α-synuclein. We then discuss their clinical implications for tauopathies and synucleinopathies and propose a working hypothesis for future research.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; propagation; strains; synucleinopathies; tauopathies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Tauopathies / metabolism
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism*
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • alpha-Synuclein
  • tau Proteins