A local insult of okadaic acid in wild-type mice induces tau phosphorylation and protein aggregation in anatomically distinct brain regions
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In Alzheimer's disease (AD), the distribution and density of neurofibrillary tangles, a histological hallmark comprised predominately of phosphorylated tau protein, follows a distinct pattern through anatomically connected brain regions. Studies in transgenic mice engineered to regionally confine tau expression have suggested spreading of tau within neural networks. Furthermore, injection of protein lysates isolated from brains of transgenic mice or patients with tauopathies, including AD, were shown to behave like seeds, accelerating tau pathology and tangle formation in predisposed mice. However, it remains unclear how the initiation of primary aggregation events occurs and what triggers further dissemination throughout the neural system. To consolidate these findings, we pursued an alternative approach to assess the spreading of endogenous phosphorylated tau. To generate endogenous seeds, 130 nl of 100 μM protein phosphatase 2A inhibitor okadaic acid (OA) was injected unilaterally into the amygdala of 8-month-old C57Bl/6 wild-type mice. OA was detected in brain tissue by ELISA, and found to be restricted to the injected hemispheric quadrant, where it remained detectable a week post-injection. OA injection induced tau phosphorylation that was observed not only at the injection site but also in anatomically distinct areas across both hemispheres, including the cortex and hippocampus 24 h post-injection. An increase in insoluble tau was also observed in both hemispheres of injected brains by 7 days. Furthermore, thioflavin-S detected protein aggregation at the injection site and in the cortex of both injected and contralateral hemispheres. OA injection induced no thioflavin-positivity in tau knock-out mice. The data demonstrates that a local OA insult can rapidly initiate changes in protein phosphorylation, solubility and aggregation at anatomically distant sites. This model suggests that tau phosphorylation can be both a primary response to an insult, and a secondary response communicated to non-exposed brains regions. The study highlights the use of OA to assist in understanding the initiation of tau spreading in vivo.
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