Integrated analysis of the aging brain transcriptome and proteome in tauopathy

Mol Neurodegener. 2020 Sep 29;15(1):56. doi: 10.1186/s13024-020-00405-4.


Background: Tau neurofibrillary tangle pathology characterizes Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative tauopathies. Brain gene expression profiles can reveal mechanisms; however, few studies have systematically examined both the transcriptome and proteome or differentiated Tau- versus age-dependent changes.

Methods: Paired, longitudinal RNA-sequencing and mass-spectrometry were performed in a Drosophila model of tauopathy, based on pan-neuronal expression of human wildtype Tau (TauWT) or a mutant form causing frontotemporal dementia (TauR406W). Tau-induced, differentially expressed transcripts and proteins were examined cross-sectionally or using linear regression and adjusting for age. Hierarchical clustering was performed to highlight network perturbations, and we examined overlaps with human brain gene expression profiles in tauopathy.

Results: TauWT induced 1514 and 213 differentially expressed transcripts and proteins, respectively. TauR406W had a substantially greater impact, causing changes in 5494 transcripts and 697 proteins. There was a ~ 70% overlap between age- and Tau-induced changes and our analyses reveal pervasive bi-directional interactions. Strikingly, 42% of Tau-induced transcripts were discordant in the proteome, showing opposite direction of change. Tau-responsive gene expression networks strongly implicate innate immune activation. Cross-species analyses pinpoint human brain gene perturbations specifically triggered by Tau pathology and/or aging, and further differentiate between disease amplifying and protective changes.

Conclusions: Our results comprise a powerful, cross-species functional genomics resource for tauopathy, revealing Tau-mediated disruption of gene expression, including dynamic, age-dependent interactions between the brain transcriptome and proteome.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Inflammation; Innate immunity; MAPT; Proteome; Tau; Transcriptome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Drosophila
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Tauopathies / genetics*
  • Tauopathies / metabolism*
  • Transcriptome
  • tau Proteins / genetics*
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • MAPT protein, human
  • tau Proteins