Amyloid plaque deposition accelerates tau propagation via activation of microglia in a humanized app mouse model
Clayton, Kevin A.
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Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the formation of two major pathological hallmarks: amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Although there have been many studies to understand the role of microglia in Alzheimer’s disease, it is not yet known how microglia can promote disease progression while actively phagocytosing amyloid plaques or phosphorylated tau (p-tau). Through stereotaxic injection of adeno-associated virus expressing mutant P301L tau (AAV-P301L-tau) into the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) of both wild-type (WT) and APPNL-G-F mice, we demonstrate how amyloid plaques exacerbate p-tau propagation to the granule cell layer (GCL) of the hippocampus. However, in mice receiving the colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor inhibitor (PLX5622), ~95% of microglia were depleted, which dramatically reduced p-tau propagation to the GCL. Although microglia depletion curtailed p-tau propagation, it also led to reduced plaque compaction and an increase in overall amyloid-beta (Aβ) plaque presence. Additionally, we found microglia depletion resulted in greater p-tau aggregation in dystrophic neurites surrounding amyloid plaques. We investigated neurodegenerative microglia (MGnD), which are activated in response to amyloid plaques, for their propensity to release extracellular vesicles in comparison to homeostatic microglia. We discovered that MGnD, identified by Clec7a or Mac2 staining, strongly express Tumor susceptibility gene 101 (Tsg101), which is an ESCRT-1 protein and a marker for extracellular vesicles (EVs). To further investigate EV release and MGnD, a novel lentivirus expressing fluorescent mEmerald conjugated to CD9 (mE-CD9) was constructed and injected into the MEC of both WT and APPNL-G-F mice which allowed for visualization of mE-CD9+ puncta around individual microglia. CD9 is a tetraspanin and also a marker for EVs. We observed that the number of mEmerald+ particles surrounding MGnD was three-fold higher compared to non-diseased, homeostatic microglia. Sequential injection of mE-CD9 and AAV-P301L-tau into the MEC revealed that microglia-derived EVs encapsulate pathologic p-tau, which is augmented by the MGnD phenotype. Taken together, these data provide strong evidence that MGnD exhibit increased secretion of tau-containing EVs, providing a possible mechanism for how amyloid deposition indirectly exacerbates tau propagation.