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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Oct 27;95(22):13103-7.

Pathogenic implications of mutations in the tau gene in pallido-ponto-nigral degeneration and related neurodegenerative disorders linked to chromosome 17.

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Department of Neurology and Gallo Clinic and Research Center, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.


Pallido-ponto-nigral degeneration (PPND) is one of the most well characterized familial neurodegenerative disorders linked to chromosome 17q21-22. These hereditary disorders are known collectively as frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17 (FTDP-17). Although the clinical features and associated regional variations in the neuronal loss observed in different FTDP-17 kindreds are diverse, the diagnostic lesions of FTDP-17 brains are tau-rich filaments in the cytoplasm of specific subpopulations of neurons and glial cells. The microtubule associated protein (tau) gene is located on chromosome 17q21-22. For these reasons, we investigated the possibility that PPND and other FTDP-17 syndromes might be caused by mutations in the tau gene. Two missense mutations in exon 10 of the tau gene that segregate with disease, Asn279(Lys) in the PPND kindred and Pro301(Leu) in four other FTDP-17 kindreds, were found. A third mutation was found in the intron adjacent to the 3' splice site of exon 10 in patients from another FTDP-17 family. Transcripts that contain exon 10 encode tau isoforms with four microtubule (MT)-binding repeats (4Rtau) as opposed to tau isoforms with three MT-binding repeats (3Rtau). The insoluble tau aggregates isolated from brains of patients with each mutation were analyzed by immunoblotting using tau-specific antibodies. For each of three mutations, abnormal tau with an apparent Mr of 64 and 69 was observed. The dephosphorylated material comigrated with tau isoforms containing exon 10 having four MT-binding repeats but not with 3Rtau. Thus, the brains of patients with both the missense mutations and the splice junction mutation contain aggregates of insoluble 4Rtau in filamentous inclusions, which may lead to neurodegeneration.

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