Trans-splicing correction of tau isoform imbalance in a mouse model of tau mis-splicing.
ABSTRACT: Abnormal metabolism of the tau protein is central to the pathogenesis of a number of dementias, including Alzheimer's disease. Aberrant alternative splicing of exon 10 in the tau pre-mRNA resulting in an imbalance of tau isoforms is one of the molecular causes of the inherited tauopathy, FTDP-17. We showed previously in heterologous systems that exon 10 inclusion in tau mRNA could be modulated by spliceosome-mediated RNA trans-splicing (SMaRT). Here, we evaluated the potential of trans-splicing RNA reprogramming to correct tau mis-splicing in differentiated neurons in a mouse model of tau mis-splicing, the htau transgenic mouse line, expressing the human MAPT gene in a null mouse Mapt background. Trans-splicing molecules designed to increase exon 10 inclusion were delivered to neurons using lentiviral vectors. We demonstrate reprogramming of tau transcripts at the RNA level after transduction of cultured neurons or after direct delivery and long-term expression of viral vectors into the brain of htau mice in vivo. Tau RNA trans-splicing resulted in an increase in exon 10 inclusion in the mature tau mRNA. Importantly, we also show that the trans-spliced product is translated into a full-length chimeric tau protein. These results validate the potential of SMaRT to correct tau mis-splicing and provide a framework for its therapeutic application to neurodegenerative conditions linked to aberrant RNA processing.
Project description:The tau gene encodes a microtubule-associated protein that is critical for neuronal survival and function. Splicing defects in the human tau gene lead to frontotemporal dementia with Parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17 (FTDP-17), an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder. Genetic mutations associated with FTDP-17 often affect tau exon 10 alternative splicing. To investigate mechanisms regulating tau exon 10 alternative splicing, we have developed a green fluorescent protein reporter for tau exon 10 skipping and an expression cloning strategy to identify splicing regulators. A role for SRp54 (also named SFRS11) as a tau exon 10 splicing repressor has been uncovered using this strategy. The overexpression of SRp54 suppresses tau exon 10 inclusion. RNA interference-mediated knock-down of SRp54 increases exon 10 inclusion. SRp54 interacts with a purine-rich element in exon 10 and antagonizes Tra2beta, an SR-domain-containing protein that enhances exon 10 inclusion. Deletion of this exonic element eliminates the activity of SRp54 in suppressing exon 10 inclusion. Our data support a role of SRp54 in regulating tau exon 10 splicing. These experiments also establish a generally useful approach for identifying trans-acting regulators of alternative splicing by expression cloning.
Project description:SRPK2 is abnormally activated in tauopathies including Alzheimer's disease (AD). SRPK2 is known to play an important role in pre-mRNA splicing by phosphorylating SR-splicing factors. Dysregulation of tau exon 10 pre-mRNA splicing causes pathological imbalances in 3R- and 4R-tau, leading to neurodegeneration; however, the role of SRPK2 in these processes remains unclear. Here we show that delta-secretase (also known as asparagine endopeptidase; AEP), which is activated in AD, cleaves SRPK2 and increases its nuclear translocation as well as kinase activity, augmenting exon 10 inclusion. Conversely, AEP-uncleavable SRPK2 N342A mutant increases exon 10 exclusion. Lentiviral expression of truncated SRPK2 increases 4R-tau isoforms and accelerates cognitive decline in htau mice. Uncleavable SRPK2 N342A expression improves synaptic functions and prevents spatial memory deficits in tau intronic mutant FTDP-17 transgenic mice. Hence, AEP mediates tau-splicing imbalance in tauopathies via cleaving SRPK2.
Project description:Tau is a microtubule-associated protein implicated in neurodegenerative tauopathies. Alternative splicing of the tau gene (MAPT) generates six tau isoforms, distinguishable by the exclusion or inclusion of a repeat region of exon 10, which are referred to as 3-repeat (3R) and 4-repeat (4R) tau, respectively. We developed transgenic mouse models that express the entire human MAPT gene in the presence and absence of the mouse Mapt gene and compared the expression and regulation of mouse and human tau isoforms during development and in the young adult. We found differences between mouse and human tau in the regulation of exon 10 inclusion. Despite these differences, the isoform splicing pattern seen in normal human brain is replicated in our mouse models. In addition, we found that all tau, both in the neonate and young adult, is phosphorylated. We also examined the normal anatomic distribution of mouse and human tau isoforms in mouse brain. We observed developmental and species-specific variations in the expression of 3R- and 4R-tau within the frontal cortex and hippocampus. In addition, there were differences in the cellular distribution of the isoforms. Mice transgenic for the human MAPT gene exhibited higher levels of neuronal cell body expression of tau compared to wildtype mice. This neuronal cell body expression of tau was limited to the 3R isoform, whereas expression of 4R-tau was more "synaptic like," with granular staining of neuropil rather than in neuronal cell bodies. These developmental and species-specific differences in the regulation and distribution of tau isoforms may be important to the understanding of normal and pathologic tau isoform expression.
Project description:Frontotemporal lobar degeneration comprises a group of disorders characterized by behavioural, executive, language impairment and sometimes features of parkinsonism and motor neuron disease. In 1994 we described an Irish-American family with frontotemporal dementia linked to chromosome 17 associated with extensive tau pathology. We named this disinhibition-dementia-parkinsonism-amyotrophy complex. We subsequently identified mutations in the MAPT gene. Eleven MAPT gene splice site stem loop mutations were identified over time except for 5' splice site of exon 10. We recently identified another Irish family with autosomal dominant early amnesia and behavioural change or parkinsonism associated with the 'missing' +15 mutation at the intronic boundary of exon 10. We performed a clinical, neuropsychological and neuroimaging study on the proband and four siblings, including two affected siblings. We sequenced MAPT and performed segregation analysis. We looked for a biological effect of the tau variant by performing real-time polymerase chain reaction analysis of RNA extracted from human embryonic kidney cells transfected with exon trapping constructs. We found a c.915+15A>C exon 10/intron 10 stem loop mutation in all affected subjects but not in the unaffected. The c.915+15A>C variant caused a shift in tau splicing pattern to a predominantly exon 10+ pattern presumably resulting in predominant 4 repeat tau and little 3 repeat tau. This strongly suggests that the c.915+15A>C variant is a mutation and that it causes frontotemporal dementia linked to chromosome 17 in this pedigree by shifting tau transcription and translation to +4 repeat tau. Tau (MAPT) screening should be considered in families where amnesia or atypical parkinsonism coexists with behavioural disturbance early in the disease process. We describe the final missing stem loop tau mutation predicted 15 years ago. Mutations have now been identified at all predicted sites within the 'stem' when the stem-loop model was first proposed and no mutations have been found within the 'loop' region as expected. Therefore we 'close the tau loop' having 'opened the loop' 21 years ago.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Genome wide association studies have identified microtubule associated protein tau (MAPT) H1 haplotype single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) as leading common risk variants for Parkinson's disease, progressive supranuclear palsy and corticobasal degeneration. The MAPT risk variants fall within a large 1.8 Mb region of high linkage disequilibrium, making it difficult to discern the functionally important risk variants. Here, we leverage the strong haplotype-specific expression of MAPT exon 3 to investigate the functionality of SNPs that fall within this H1 haplotype region of linkage disequilibrium. METHODS:In this study, we dissect the molecular mechanisms by which haplotype-specific SNPs confer allele-specific effects on the alternative splicing of MAPT exon 3. Firstly, we use haplotype-hybrid whole-locus genomic MAPT vectors studies to identify functional SNPs. Next, we characterise the RNA-protein interactions at two loci by mass spectrometry. Lastly, we knockdown candidate splice factors to determine their effect on MAPT exon 3 using a novel allele-specific qPCR assay. RESULTS:Using whole-locus genomic DNA expression vectors to express MAPT haplotype variants, we demonstrate that rs17651213 regulates exon 3 inclusion in a haplotype-specific manner. We further investigated the functionality of this region using RNA-electrophoretic mobility shift assays to show differential RNA-protein complex formation at the H1 and H2 sequence variants of SNP rs17651213 and rs1800547 and subsequently identified candidate trans-acting splicing factors interacting with these functional SNPs sequences by RNA-protein pull-down experiment and mass spectrometry. Finally, gene knockdown of candidate splice factors identified by mass spectrometry demonstrate a role for hnRNP F and hnRNP Q in the haplotype-specific regulation of exon 3 inclusion. CONCLUSIONS:We identified common splice factors hnRNP F and hnRNP Q regulating the haplotype-specific splicing of MAPT exon 3 through intronic variants rs1800547 and rs17651213. This work demonstrates an integrated approach to characterise the functionality of risk variants in large regions of linkage disequilibrium.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:To evaluate 18F-AV-1451 tau PET binding among microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) mutation carriers. METHODS:Using a case-control study, we quantitatively and qualitatively compared tau PET scans in 10 symptomatic and 3 asymptomatic MAPT mutation carriers (n = 13, age range 42-67 years) with clinically normal (CN) participants (n = 241, age range 42-67 years) and an Alzheimer disease (AD) dementia cohort (n = 30, age range 52-67 years). Eight participants had MAPT mutations that involved exon 10 (N279K n = 5, S305N n = 2, P301L n = 1) and tend to form 4R tau pathology, and 5 had mutations outside exon 10 (V337M n = 2, R406W n = 3) and tend to form mixed 3R/4R tau pathology. RESULTS:Tau PET signal was qualitatively and quantitatively different between participants with AD, CN participants, and MAPT mutation carriers, with the greatest signal intensity in those with AD and minimal regional signal in MAPT mutation carries with mutations in exon 10. However, MAPT mutation carriers with mutations outside exon 10 had uptake levels within the AD range, which was significantly higher than both MAPT mutation carriers with mutations in exon 10 and controls. CONCLUSIONS:Tau PET shows higher magnitude of binding in MAPT mutation carriers who harbor mutations that are more likely to produce AD-like tau pathology (e.g., in our series, the non-exon 10 families tend to accumulate mixed 3R/4R aggregates). Exon 10 splicing determines the balance of 3R and 4R tau isoforms, with some mutations involving exon 10 predisposing to a greater proportion of 4R aggregates and consequently a lower level of AV-1451 binding, as seen in this case series, thus supporting the notion that this tau PET ligand has specific binding properties for AD-like tau pathology.
Project description:Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most common cause of dementia in the elderly, has two pathological hallmarks: A? plaques and aggregation of hyperphosphorylated tau (p-tau). A? is a cleavage product of Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP). Presenilin 1 (PS1) and presenilin 2 (PS2) are the catalytic subunit of ?-secretase, which cleaves APP and mediates A? production. Genetic mutations in APP, PSEN1 or PSEN2 can lead to early onset of familial AD (FAD). Although mutations in the tau encoding gene MAPT leads to a subtype of frontotemporal dementia and these mutations have been used to model AD tauopathy, no MAPT mutations have been found to be associated with AD.To model AD pathophysiology in mice without the gross overexpression of mutant transgenes, we created a humanized AD mouse model by crossing the APP and PSEN1 FAD knock-in mice with the htau mice which express wildtype human MAPT genomic DNA on mouse MAPT null background (APP/PS1/htau). The APP/PS1/htau mice displayed mild, age-dependent, A? plaques and tau hyperphosphorylation, thus successfully recapitulating the late-onset AD pathological hallmarks. Selected biochemical analyses, including p-tau western blot, ?-secretase activity assay, and A? ELISA, were performed to study the interaction between A? and p-tau. Subsequent behavioral studies revealed that the APP/PS1/htau mice showed reduced mobility in old ages and exaggerated fear response. Genetic analysis suggested that the fear phenotype is due to a synergic interaction between A? and p-tau, and it can be completely abolished by tau deletion.The APP/PS1/htau model represents a valuable and disease-relevant late-onset pre-clinical AD animal model because it incorporates human AD genetics without mutant protein overexpression. Analysis of the mice revealed both cooperative and independent effects of A? and p-tau.
Project description:Increasing evidence suggests that hyperphosphorylation and aggregation of microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT or tau) correlates with the development of cognitive impairment in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related tauopathies. While numerous attempts have been made to model AD-relevant tau pathology in various animal models, there has been very limited success for these models to fully recapitulate the progression of disease as seen in human tauopathies. Here, we performed whole genome gene expression in a genomic mouse model of tauopathy that expressed human MAPT gene under the control of endogenous human MAPT promoter and also were complete knockout for endogenous mouse tau [referred to as 'hTau MaptKO(Duke)' mice]. First, whole genome expression analysis revealed 64 genes, which were differentially expressed (32 up-regulated and 32 down-regulated) in the hippocampus of 6-month-old hTau MaptKO(Duke) mice compared to age-matched non-transgenic controls. Genes relevant to neuronal function or neurological disease include up-regulated genes: PKC-alpha (Prkca), MECP2 (Mecp2), STRN4 (Strn4), SLC40a1 (Slc40a1), POLD2 (Pold2), PCSK2 (Pcsk2), and down-regulated genes: KRT12 (Krt12), LASS1 (Cers1), PLAT (Plat), and NRXN1 (Nrxn1). Second, network analysis suggested anatomical structure development, cellular metabolic process, cell death, signal transduction, and stress response were significantly altered biological processes in the hTau MaptKO(Duke) mice as compared to age-matched non-transgenic controls. Further characterization of a sub-group of significantly altered genes revealed elevated phosphorylation of MECP2 (methyl-CpG-binding protein-2), which binds to methylated CpGs and associates with chromatin, in hTau MaptKO(Duke) mice compared to age-matched controls. Third, phoshpho-MECP2 was elevated in autopsy brain samples from human AD compared to healthy controls. Finally, siRNA-mediated knockdown of MECP2 in human tau expressing N2a cells resulted in a significant decrease in total and phosphorylated tau. Together, these results suggest that MECP2 is a potential novel regulator of tau pathology relevant to AD and tauopathies.
Project description:A proportion of Alzheimer's disease cases displays inclusions of the RNA-binding protein, TDP-43. Considering the pathogenic role of tau mis-splicing, we compared tau isoform expression between Alzheimer's disease cases with or without TDP-43 inclusions. The average ratio of tau isoforms containing or lacking exon 10 (4R/3R ratio) or the total level of tau mRNA was not significantly different between cases with or without TDP-43 pathology in any of the brain regions examined. Although TDP-43 functions may be affected, TDP-43 does not critically regulate expression or splicing of tau in Alzheimer's disease suggesting that TDP-43 contributes to Alzheimer's disease through mechanisms independent of tau.
Project description:Alternative splicing has emerged as a promising therapeutic target in a number of human disorders. However, the discovery of compounds that target the splicing reaction has been hindered by the lack of suitable high-throughput screening assays. Conversely, the effects of known drugs on the splicing reaction are mostly unclear and not routinely assessed. We have developed a two-color fluorescent reporter for cellular assays of exon inclusion that can accommodate nearly any cassette exon and minimizes interfering effects from changes in transcription and translation. We used microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) exon 10, whose missplicing causes frontotemporal dementia, to test the reporter in screening libraries of known bioactive compounds. These screens yielded several compounds that alter the splicing of the exon, both in the reporter and in the endogenous MAPT mRNA. One compound, digoxin, has long been used in the treatment of heart failure, but was not known to modulate splicing. The positive compounds target different signal transduction pathways, and microarray analysis shows that each compound affects the splicing of a different set of exons in addition to MAPT exon 10. Our results identify currently prescribed cardiotonic steroids as modulators of alternative splicing and demonstrate the feasibility of screening for drugs that alter exon inclusion.