Molecular signatures underlying neurofibrillary tangle susceptibility in Alzheimer's disease

Neuron. 2022 Sep 21;110(18):2929-2948.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2022.06.021. Epub 2022 Jul 25.


Tau aggregation in neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) is closely associated with neurodegeneration and cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the molecular signatures that distinguish between aggregation-prone and aggregation-resistant cell states are unknown. We developed methods for the high-throughput isolation and transcriptome profiling of single somas with NFTs from the human AD brain, quantified the susceptibility of 20 neocortical subtypes for NFT formation and death, and identified both shared and cell-type-specific signatures. NFT-bearing neurons shared a marked upregulation of synaptic transmission-related genes, including a core set of 63 genes enriched for synaptic vesicle cycling. Oxidative phosphorylation and mitochondrial dysfunction were highly cell-type dependent. Apoptosis was only modestly enriched, and the susceptibilities of NFT-bearing and NFT-free neurons for death were highly similar. Our analysis suggests that NFTs represent cell-type-specific responses to stress and synaptic dysfunction. We provide a resource for biomarker discovery and the investigation of tau-dependent and tau-independent mechanisms of neurodegeneration.

Keywords: amyloid; biomarkers; dementia; neurodegeneration; neuropathology; selective vulnerability; single-cell RNA-seq; single-nucleus RNA-seq; tauopathies; transcriptomics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease* / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles* / metabolism
  • tau Proteins / genetics
  • tau Proteins / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • tau Proteins