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Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology:
doi: 10.1097/NEN.0000000000000103
Original Articles

Tau Pathology Induces Intraneuronal Cholesterol Accumulation

Glöckner, Frauke MD; Ohm, Thomas G. MD, PhD

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Abstract

Epidemiologic and experimental data suggest the involvement of cholesterol metabolism in the development and progression of Alzheimer disease and Niemann-Pick type C disease, but not of frontotemporal dementias. In these 3 neurodegenerative diseases, however, protein tau hyperphosphorylation and aggregation into neurofibrillary tangles are observed. To elucidate the relationship between cholesterol and tau, we compared sterol levels of neurons burdened with neurofibrillary tangles with those of their unaffected neighbors using semiquantitative filipin fluorescence microscopy in mice expressing P301L mutant human tau (a well-described model of FTDP-17) and in P301L transgenic mice lacking apolipoprotein E (the major cholesterol transporter in the brain). Cellular unesterified cholesterol was higher in neurons affected by tau pathology irrespective of apolipoprotein E deficiency. This argues for an impact of tau pathology on cellular cholesterol homeostasis. We suggest that there is a bidirectional mode of action: Disturbances in cellular cholesterol metabolism may promote tau pathology, but tau pathology may also alter neuronal cholesterol homeostasis; once it is established, a vicious cycle may promote neurofibrillary tangle formation.

Copyright © 2014 by the American Association of Neuropathologists, Inc.

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