PAC1 receptor-mediated clearance of tau in postsynaptic compartments attenuates tau pathology in mouse brain

Ari W. Schaler, Avery M. Runyan, Catherine L. Clelland, Eric J. Sydney, Stephanie L. Fowler, Helen Y. Figueroa, Seiji Shioda, Ismael Santa-Maria, Karen E. Duff, Natura Myeku

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Accumulation of pathological tau in synapses has been identified as an early event in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and correlates with cognitive decline in patients with AD. Tau is a cytosolic axonal protein, but under disease conditions, tau accumulates in postsynaptic compartments and presynaptic terminals, due to missorting within neurons, transsynaptic transfer between neurons, or a failure of clearance pathways. Using subcellular fractionation of brain tissue from rTg4510 tau transgenic mice with tauopathy and human postmortem brain tissue from patients with AD, we found accumulation of seed-competent tau predominantly in postsynaptic compartments. Tau-mediated toxicity in postsynaptic compartments was exacerbated by impaired proteasome activity detected by measuring lysine-48 polyubiquitination of proteins targeted for proteasomal degradation. To combat the accumulation of tau and proteasome impairment in the postsynaptic compartments of rTg4510 mouse brain, we stimulated the pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) type 1 receptor (PAC1R) with its ligand PACAP administered intracerebroventricularly to rTg4510 mice. We observed enhanced synaptic proteasome activity and reduced total tau in postsynaptic compartments in mouse brain after PACAP treatment. The clearance of tau from postsynaptic compartments correlated with attenuated tauopathy and improved cognitive performance of rTg4510 transgenic mice on two behavioral tests. These results suggest that activating PAC1R could prevent accumulation of aggregate-prone tau and indicate a potential therapeutic approach for AD and other tauopathies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereaba7394
JournalScience Translational Medicine
Issue number595
StatePublished - 26 May 2021
Externally publishedYes


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