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Autophagy. 2018 Oct 5:1-16. doi: 10.1080/15548627.2018.1532258. [Epub ahead of print]

The cargo receptor SQSTM1 ameliorates neurofibrillary tangle pathology and spreading through selective targeting of pathological MAPT (microtubule associated protein tau).

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a Huffington Center on Aging, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics , Baylor College of Medicine , Houston , TX , USA.
b The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine, Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy , McGovern Medical School, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston , Houston , TX , USA.


Accumulating evidence suggests that misfolded MAPT (microtubule associated protein tau), the main component of neurofibrillary tangles in tauopathies, is subject to degradation by the autophagy-lysosomal pathway. Selective autophagy is a subtype of macroautophagy that requires cargo receptors, such as OPTN (optineurin) or SQSTM1, to recognize specific targets for their sequestration within the autophagosome and their eventual degradation by the lysosome, although their roles in targeting distinct MAPT species have not been fully investigated. Using cargo receptor knockout cell lines and a seeding-based cellular assay in which neurofibrillary tangle pathology can be modeled in vitro, we reveal that while OPTN primarily targets soluble MAPT expressed in physiological conditions, SQSTM1 predominantly degrades insoluble but not soluble mutant MAPT. Endogenous SQSTM1 colocalizes with misfolded and aggregated MAPT species in vitro and in vivo, and both this colocalization and its function in MAPT clearance require both the LC3-interacting region (LIR) motif and also the PB1 self-polymerization domain of SQSTM1. Further, pathogenic MAPT accumulation reduces basal macroautophagy/autophagy in vitro and is associated with a compensatory upregulation of the lysosomal pathway in vivo. Finally, increased expression of SQSTM1 in MAPT transgenic mouse brains ameliorates MAPT pathology and prion-like spreading. Our results uncover distinct properties of selective autophagy receptors in targeting different MAPT species, implicate compromised autophagy as a potential underlying factor in mutant MAPT deposition, and demonstrate a potent and specific role of SQSTM1 in targeted clearance of pathogenic MAPT, through which it blocks neurofibrillary tangle accumulation and pathological spreading. Abbreviations: AAV: adeno-associated virus; AD: Alzheimer disease; ALP: autophagy-lysosomal pathway; ALS: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; CALCOCO2/NDP52: calcium binding and coiled-coil domain 2; FTD: frontotemporal dementias; HD: Huntington disease; HTT: huntingtin; LIR: LC3-interacting region; NBR1: autophagy cargo receptor; NFE2L2/Nrf2: nuclear factor, erythroid derived 2, like 2; NFTs: neurofibrillary tangles; MAPT: microtubule associated protein tau; OPTN: optineurin; p-MAPT: hyperphosphorylated MAPT; PFA: paraformaldehyde; TARDBP/TDP-43: TAR DNA binding protein; TAX1BP1 Tax1: binding protein 1; ThioS: thioflavin-S; UBA: ubiquitin-associated.


Alzheimer disease; SQSTM1; mice; selective autophagy; tauopathy

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