Heterotypic liquid-liquid phase separation of tau and α-synuclein: Implications for overlapping neuropathologies

Biochim Biophys Acta Proteins Proteom. 2023 Nov 1;1871(6):140950. doi: 10.1016/j.bbapap.2023.140950. Epub 2023 Aug 18.


Tauopathies and synucleinopathies are characterized by the aggregation of Tau and α-synuclein (AS) into amyloid structures, respectively. Individuals with these neuropathies have an elevated risk of developing subsequent neurodegenerative or comorbid disorders. Intriguingly, post-mortem brain examinations have revealed co-localization of Tau and AS aggregates, suggesting a synergistic pathological relationship with an adverse prognosis. The role of liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) in the development of neurodegenerative diseases is currently receiving significant attention, as it can contribute to the aggregation and co-deposition of amyloidogenic proteins. In this study, we investigated the phase separation behavior of Tau and AS under various insults, some of which are implicated in disease progression. Our findings demonstrate the formation of heterotypic droplets composed of Tau and AS at physiologically relevant mole ratios that mimic neurons' soma and terminal buttons. Importantly, these heterotypic droplets exhibit increased resistance to electrostatic screening compared to homotypic condensates. Moreover, we observed that biologically relevant biomolecules, known to be dysregulated in disease, exert different effects on these droplets. Additionally, we provide evidence that phase separation itself influences the amyloid aggregation of Tau and AS, underscoring the significance of this process in the development of aggregopathies.

Keywords: Amyloid; Condensates; Liquid-liquid phase separation; Microscopy; Protein aggregation; Synuclein; Tau protein.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid / chemistry
  • Amyloidogenic Proteins
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / metabolism
  • alpha-Synuclein* / chemistry
  • tau Proteins / chemistry


  • alpha-Synuclein
  • tau Proteins
  • Amyloid
  • Amyloidogenic Proteins