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Neurobiol Aging. 2012 Mar;33(3):619.e25-35. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2011.02.007. Epub 2011 Mar 29.

Truncated tau and Aβ cooperatively impair mitochondria in primary neurons.

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Department of Anesthesiology, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


Mitochondrial dysfunction is likely a significant contributing factor to Alzheimer disease pathogenesis, and both amyloid peptide (Aβ) and pathological forms of tau may contribute to this impairment. Cleavage of tau at Asp421 occurs early in Alzheimer disease, and Asp421-cleaved tau likely negatively impacts neuronal function. Previously we showed that expression of Asp421-cleaved tau in a neuronal cell model resulted in mitochondrial impairment. To extend these findings we expressed either full length tau or Asp421-cleaved tau (truncated tau) in primary cortical neurons and measured different aspects of mitochondrial function with or without the addition of sublethal concentrations of Aβ. The expression of truncated tau alone induced significant mitochondrial fragmentation in neurons. When truncated tau expression was combined with Aβ at sublethal concentrations, increases in the stationary mitochondrial population and the levels of oxidative stress in cortical neurons were observed. Truncated tau expression also enhanced Aβ-induced mitochondrial potential loss in primary neurons. These new findings show that Asp421-cleaved tau and Aβ cooperate to impair mitochondria, which likely contributes to the neuronal dysfunction in Alzheimer disease.

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