MIR-NATs repress MAPT translation and aid proteostasis in neurodegeneration

Nature. 2021 Jun;594(7861):117-123. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03556-6. Epub 2021 May 19.


The human genome expresses thousands of natural antisense transcripts (NAT) that can regulate epigenetic state, transcription, RNA stability or translation of their overlapping genes1,2. Here we describe MAPT-AS1, a brain-enriched NAT that is conserved in primates and contains an embedded mammalian-wide interspersed repeat (MIR), which represses tau translation by competing for ribosomal RNA pairing with the MAPT mRNA internal ribosome entry site3. MAPT encodes tau, a neuronal intrinsically disordered protein (IDP) that stabilizes axonal microtubules. Hyperphosphorylated, aggregation-prone tau forms the hallmark inclusions of tauopathies4. Mutations in MAPT cause familial frontotemporal dementia, and common variations forming the MAPT H1 haplotype are a significant risk factor in many tauopathies5 and Parkinson's disease. Notably, expression of MAPT-AS1 or minimal essential sequences from MAPT-AS1 (including MIR) reduces-whereas silencing MAPT-AS1 expression increases-neuronal tau levels, and correlate with tau pathology in human brain. Moreover, we identified many additional NATs with embedded MIRs (MIR-NATs), which are overrepresented at coding genes linked to neurodegeneration and/or encoding IDPs, and confirmed MIR-NAT-mediated translational control of one such gene, PLCG1. These results demonstrate a key role for MAPT-AS1 in tauopathies and reveal a potentially broad contribution of MIR-NATs to the tightly controlled translation of IDPs6, with particular relevance for proteostasis in neurodegeneration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal Ribosome Entry Sites / genetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Protein Biosynthesis / genetics*
  • Proteostasis / genetics*
  • RNA, Antisense / genetics*
  • Ribosomes / metabolism
  • Tauopathies / genetics*
  • Tauopathies / metabolism*
  • tau Proteins / biosynthesis
  • tau Proteins / genetics*
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Internal Ribosome Entry Sites
  • MAPT protein, human
  • RNA, Antisense
  • tau Proteins