Conditional expression systems for 4-repeat wild-type (WT) tau or the corresponding mutants V337M and R406W were established in human neuroglioma H4 cells to study the effect of tau mutations on the physicochemical properties of tau, and to develop a cellular model for the formation of filamentous tau characteristic of frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17 (FTDP-17) and Alzheimer's disease. Upon induction tau expression increased, reaching maximal levels at 5 to 7 days. WT tau was phosphorylated at amino acids T181, S202/ T205, T231, and S396/S404. The R406W mutation decreased tau phosphorylation at each of these sites as did the V337M mutation except for S396/S404 sites that increased. Most tau in postnuclear cell lysates was recovered in the supernatant fraction after centrifugation at 200,000 x g. The amount of tau in the pellet fraction increased more in mutant transfectants compared to WT when the induction was extended beyond 5 days. This particulate tau could be partially extracted with salt, Triton X-100, or sarkosyl. Of the transfectants, R406W had the highest proportion of sarkosyl-insoluble tau by day 7. This insoluble fraction was thioflavin S-positive and contained 15- to 5-nm-wide filaments with tau immunoreactivities. The R406W filaments were more abundant than those detected in similar preparations from WT or V337M transfectants. At the light microscopy level, most tau was found with microtubules, or diffusely distributed in the cytoplasm, but none of this appeared thioflavin S-positive. The results suggest that conditional tau transfectants are in a pretangle stage making them an attractive model system for studying intracellular tangle accumulation and for testing potential therapeutic agents as inhibitors for tau aggregation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine