Impaired glymphatic function and clearance of tau in an Alzheimer's disease model

Brain. 2020 Aug 1;143(8):2576-2593. doi: 10.1093/brain/awaa179.


The glymphatic system, that is aquaporin 4 (AQP4) facilitated exchange of CSF with interstitial fluid (ISF), may provide a clearance pathway for protein species such as amyloid-β and tau, which accumulate in the brain in Alzheimer's disease. Further, tau protein transference via the extracellular space, the compartment that is cleared by the glymphatic pathway, allows for its neuron-to-neuron propagation, and the regional progression of tauopathy in the disorder. The glymphatic system therefore represents an exciting new target for Alzheimer's disease. Here we aim to understand the involvement of glymphatic CSF-ISF exchange in tau pathology. First, we demonstrate impaired CSF-ISF exchange and AQP4 polarization in a mouse model of tauopathy, suggesting that this clearance pathway may have the potential to exacerbate or even induce pathogenic accumulation of tau. Subsequently, we establish the central role of AQP4 in the glymphatic clearance of tau from the brain; showing marked impaired glymphatic CSF-ISF exchange and tau protein clearance using the novel AQP4 inhibitor, TGN-020. As such, we show that this system presents as a novel druggable target for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, and possibly other neurodegenerative diseases alike.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; aquaporin-4; glymphatic; rTg4510; tau.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Animals
  • Aquaporin 4 / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Extracellular Fluid / metabolism
  • Glymphatic System / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Aquaporin 4
  • tau Proteins