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Ferrer, Isidro, Andrés-Benito, Pol, Sala-Jarque, Julia, Gil, Vanessa, del Rio, José Antonio, (2020). Capacity for seeding and spreading of argyrophilic grain disease in a wild-type murine model; Comparisons with primary age-related tauopathy Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience 13, 101

Argyrophilic grain disease (AGD) is a common 4R-tauopathy, causing or contributing to cognitive impairment in the elderly. AGD is characterized neuropathologically by pre-tangles in neurons, dendritic swellings called grains, threads, thorn-shaped astrocytes, and coiled bodies in oligodendrocytes in the limbic system. AGD has a characteristic pattern progressively involving the entorhinal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, dentate gyrus, presubiculum, subiculum, hypothalamic nuclei, temporal cortex, and neocortex and brainstem, thus suggesting that argyrophilic grain pathology is a natural model of tau propagation. One series of WT mice was unilaterally inoculated in the hippocampus with sarkosyl-insoluble and sarkosyl-soluble fractions from “pure” AGD at the age of 3 or 7/12 months and killed 3 or 7 months later. Abnormal hyper-phosphorylated tau deposits were found in ipsilateral hippocampal neurons, grains (dots) in the hippocampus, and threads, dots and coiled bodies in the fimbria, as well as the ipsilateral and contralateral corpus callosum. The extension of lesions was wider in animals surviving 7 months compared with those surviving 3 months. Astrocytic inclusions were not observed at any time. Tau deposits were mainly composed of 4Rtau, but also 3Rtau. For comparative purposes, another series of WT mice was inoculated with sarkosyl-insoluble fractions from primary age-related tauopathy (PART), a pure neuronal neurofibrillary tangle 3Rtau + 4Rtau tauopathy involving the deep temporal cortex and limbic system. Abnormal hyper-phosphorylated tau deposits were found in neurons in the ipsilateral hippocampus, coiled bodies and threads in the fimbria, and the ipsilateral and contralateral corpus callosum, which extended with time along the anterior-posterior axis and distant regions such as hypothalamic nuclei and nuclei of the septum when comparing mice surviving 7 months with mice surviving 3 months. Astrocytic inclusions were not observed. Tau deposits were mainly composed of 4Rtau and 3Rtau. These results show the capacity for seeding and spreading of AGD tau and PART tau in the brain of WT mouse, and suggest that characteristics of host tau, in addition to those of inoculated tau, are key to identifying commonalities and differences between human tauopathies and corresponding murine models.

Keywords: Argyrophilic grain disease, Tauopathies, Tau, Seeding, Progression, Coiled Bodies, Primary age-related tauopathy


Ferrer, Isidro, Andrés-Benito, Pol, Zelaya, Maria Victoria, Aguirre, Maria Elena Erro, Carmona, Margarita, Ausín, Karina, Lachén-Montes, Mercedes, Fernández-Irigoyen, Joaquín, Santamaría, Enrique, del Río, José Antonio, (2020). Familial globular glial tauopathy linked to MAPT mutations: molecular neuropathology and seeding capacity of a prototypical mixed neuronal and glial tauopathy Acta Neuropathologica 139, (4), 735-771

Globular glial tauopathy (GGT) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease involving the grey matter and white matter (WM) and characterized by neuronal deposition of hyper-phosphorylated, abnormally conformed, truncated, oligomeric 4Rtau in neurons and in glial cells forming typical globular astrocyte and oligodendrocyte inclusions (GAIs and GOIs, respectively) and coiled bodies. Present studies centre on four genetic GGT cases from two unrelated families bearing the P301T mutation in MAPT and one case of sporadic GGT (sGGT) and one case of GGT linked to MAPT K317M mutation, for comparative purposes. Clinical and neuropathological manifestations and biochemical profiles of phospho-tau are subjected to individual variations in patients carrying the same mutation, even in carriers of the same family, independently of the age of onset, gender, and duration of the disease. Immunohistochemistry, western blotting, transcriptomic, proteomics and phosphoproteomics, and intra-cerebral inoculation of brain homogenates to wild-type (WT) mice were the methods employed. In GGT cases linked to MAPT P301T mutation, astrocyte markers GFAP, ALDH1L1, YKL40 mRNA and protein, GJA1 mRNA, and AQ4 protein are significantly increased; glutamate transporter GLT1 (EAAT2) and glucose transporter (SLC2A1) decreased; mitochondrial pyruvate carrier 1 (MPC1) increased, and mitochondrial uncoupling protein 5 (UCP5) almost absent in GAIs in frontal cortex (FC). Expression of oligodendrocyte markers OLIG1 and OLIG2mRNA, and myelin-related genes MBP, PLP1, CNP, MAG, MAL, MOG, and MOBP are significantly decreased in WM; CNPase, PLP1, and MBP antibodies reveal reduction and disruption of myelinated fibres; and SMI31 antibodies mark axonal damage in the WM. Altered expression of AQ4, GLUC-t, and GLT-1 is also observed in sGGT and in GGT linked to MAPT K317M mutation. These alterations point to primary astrogliopathy and oligodendrogliopathy in GGT. In addition, GGT linked to MAPT P301T mutation proteotypes unveil a proteostatic imbalance due to widespread (phospho)proteomic dearrangement in the FC and WM, triggering a disruption of neuron projection morphogenesis and synaptic transmission. Identification of hyper-phosphorylation of variegated proteins calls into question the concept of phospho-tau-only alteration in the pathogenesis of GGT. Finally, unilateral inoculation of sarkosyl-insoluble fractions of GGT homogenates from GGT linked to MAPT P301T, sGGT, and GGT linked to MAPT K317M mutation in the hippocampus, corpus callosum, or caudate/putamen in wild-type mice produces seeding, and time- and region-dependent spreading of phosphorylated, non-oligomeric, and non-truncated 4Rtau and 3Rtau, without GAIs and GOIs but only of coiled bodies. These experiments prove that host tau strains are important in the modulation of cellular vulnerability and phenotypes of phospho-tau aggregates.

Keywords: Globular glial tauopathy, Tau, Astrogliopathy, Oligodendrogliopathy, Phosphoproteome, Seeding and spreading


del Rio, Jose A., Ferrer, Isidre, (2020). Potential of microfluidics and lab-on-chip platforms to improve understanding of “prion-like” protein assembly and behavior Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 8, 570692

Human aging is accompanied by a relevant increase in age-associated chronic pathologies, including neurodegenerative and metabolic diseases. The appearance and evolution of numerous neurodegenerative diseases is paralleled by the appearance of intracellular and extracellular accumulation of misfolded proteins in affected brains. In addition, recent evidence suggests that most of these amyloid proteins can behave and propagate among neural cells similarly to infective prions. In order to improve understanding of the seeding and spreading processes of these “prion-like” amyloids, microfluidics and 3D lab-on-chip approaches have been developed as highly valuable tools. These techniques allow us to monitor changes in cellular and molecular processes responsible for amyloid seeding and cell spreading and their parallel effects in neural physiology. Their compatibility with new optical and biochemical techniques and their relative availability have increased interest in them and in their use in numerous laboratories. In addition, recent advances in stem cell research in combination with microfluidic platforms have opened new humanized in vitro models for myriad neurodegenerative diseases affecting different cellular targets of the vascular, muscular, and nervous systems, and glial cells. These new platforms help reduce the use of animal experimentation. They are more reproducible and represent a potential alternative to classical approaches to understanding neurodegeneration. In this review, we summarize recent progress in neurobiological research in “prion-like” protein using microfluidic and 3D lab-on-chip approaches. These approaches are driven by various fields, including chemistry, biochemistry, and cell biology, and they serve to facilitate the development of more precise human brain models for basic mechanistic studies of cell-to-cell interactions and drug discovery.

Keywords: Lab-On-Chip, Amyloid propagation, Microfluidics, Fibril, Seeding, Spreading, Prion-like, Prionoid


Ferrer, I., Zelaya, M. V., Aguiló García, M., Carmona, M., López-González, I., Andrés-Benito, P., Lidón, L., Gavín, R., Garcia-Esparcia, P., del Rio, J. A., (2020). Relevance of host tau in tau seeding and spreading in tauopathies Brain Pathology 30, (2), 298-318

Human tau seeding and spreading occur following intracerebral inoculation of brain homogenates obtained from tauopathies in transgenic mice expressing natural or mutant tau, and in wild-type (WT) mice. The present study was geared to learning about the patterns of tau seeding, the cells involved and the characteristics of tau following intracerebral inoculation of homogenates from primary age-related tauopathy (PART: neuronal 4Rtau and 3Rtau), aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG: astrocytic 4Rtau) and globular glial tauopathy (GGT: 4Rtau with neuronal deposits and specific tau inclusions in astrocytes and oligodendrocytes). For this purpose, young and adult WT mice were inoculated unilaterally in the hippocampus or in the lateral corpus callosum with sarkosyl-insoluble fractions from PART, ARTAG and GGT cases, and were killed at variable periods of three to seven months. Brains were processed for immunohistochemistry in paraffin sections. Tau seeding occurred in the ipsilateral hippocampus and corpus callosum and spread to the septal nuclei, periventricular hypothalamus and contralateral corpus callosum, respectively. Tau deposits were mainly found in neurons, oligodendrocytes and threads; the deposits were diffuse or granular, composed of phosphorylated tau, tau with abnormal conformation and 3Rtau and 4Rtau independently of the type of tauopathy. Truncated tau at the aspartic acid 421 and ubiquitination were absent. Tau deposits had the characteristics of pre-tangles. A percentage of intracellular tau deposits co-localized with active (phosphorylated) tau kinases p38 and ERK 1/2. Present study shows that seeding and spreading of human tau into the brain of WT mice involves neurons and glial cells, mainly oligodendrocytes, thereby supporting the idea of a primary role of oligodendrogliopathy, together with neuronopathy, in the progression of tauopathies. In addition, it suggests that human tau inoculation modifies murine tau metabolism with the production and deposition of 3Rtau and 4Rtau, and by activation of specific tau kinases in affected cells.

Keywords: Aging-related tau astrogliopathy, Globular glial tauopathy, Primary age-related tauopathy, Seeding, Spreading, Tau, Tauopathies


Ferrer, I., García, M. A., Carmona, M., Andrés-Benito, P., Torrejón-Escribano, B., Garcia-Esparcia, P., Del Rio, J. A., (2019). Involvement of oligodendrocytes in tau seeding and spreading in tauopathies Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 11, 112

Introduction: Human tau seeding and spreading occur following intracerebral inoculation into different gray matter regions of brain homogenates obtained from tauopathies in transgenic mice expressing wild or mutant tau, and in wild-type (WT) mice. However, little is known about tau propagation following inoculation in the white matter. Objectives: The present study is geared to learning about the patterns of tau seeding and cells involved following unilateral inoculation in the corpus callosum of homogenates from sporadic Alzheimer's disease (AD), primary age-related tauopathy (PART: neuronal 4Rtau and 3Rtau), pure aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG: astroglial 4Rtau with thorn-shaped astrocytes TSAs), globular glial tauopathy (GGT: 4Rtau with neuronal tau and specific tau inclusions in astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, GAIs and GOIs, respectively), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP: 4Rtau with neuronal inclusions, tufted astrocytes and coiled bodies), Pick's disease (PiD: 3Rtau with characteristic Pick bodies in neurons and tau containing fibrillar astrocytes), and frontotemporal lobar degeneration linked to P301L mutation (FTLD-P301L: 4Rtau familial tauopathy). Methods: Adult WT mice were inoculated unilaterally in the lateral corpus callosum with sarkosyl-insoluble fractions or with sarkosyl-soluble fractions from the mentioned tauopathies; mice were killed from 4 to 7 months after inoculation. Brains were fixed in paraformaldehyde, embedded in paraffin and processed for immunohistochemistry. Results: Tau seeding occurred in the ipsilateral corpus callosum and was also detected in the contralateral corpus callosum. Phospho-tau deposits were found in oligodendrocytes similar to coiled bodies and in threads. Moreover, tau deposits co-localized with active (phosphorylated) tau kinases p38 and ERK 1/2, suggesting active tau phosphorylation of murine tau. TSAs, GAIs, GOIs, tufted astrocytes, and tau-containing fibrillar astrocytes were not seen in any case. Tau deposits were often associated with slight myelin disruption and the presence of small PLP1-immunoreactive globules and dots in the ipsilateral corpus callosum 6 months after inoculation of sarkosyl-insoluble fractions from every tauopathy. Conclusions: Seeding and spreading of human tau in the corpus callosum of WT mice occurs in oligodendrocytes, thereby supporting the idea of a role of oligodendrogliopathy in tau seeding and spreading in the white matter in tauopathies. Slight differences in the predominance of threads or oligodendroglial deposits suggest disease differences in the capacity of tau seeding and spreading among tauopathies.

Keywords: AD, ARTAG, GGT, PiD, Seeding and spreading, Tau, Tauopathies


Ferrer, I., Zelaya, M. V., Aguiló García, M., Carmona, M., López-González, I., Andrés-Benito, P., Lidón, L., Gavín, R., Garcia-Esparcia, P., del Rio, J. A., (2019). Relevance of host tau in tau seeding and spreading in tauopathies Brain Pathology Early View

Human tau seeding and spreading occur following intracerebral inoculation of brain homogenates obtained from tauopathies in transgenic mice expressing natural or mutant tau, and in wild-type (WT) mice. The present study was geared to learning about the patterns of tau seeding, the cells involved and the characteristics of tau following intracerebral inoculation of homogenates from primary age-related tauopathy (PART: neuronal 4Rtau and 3Rtau), aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG: astrocytic 4Rtau) and globular glial tauopathy (GGT: 4Rtau with neuronal deposits and specific tau inclusions in astrocytes and oligodendrocytes). For this purpose, young and adult WT mice were inoculated unilaterally in the hippocampus or in the lateral corpus callosum with sarkosyl-insoluble fractions from PART, ARTAG and GGT cases, and were killed at variable periods of three to seven months. Brains were processed for immunohistochemistry in paraffin sections. Tau seeding occurred in the ipsilateral hippocampus and corpus callosum and spread to the septal nuclei, periventricular hypothalamus and contralateral corpus callosum, respectively. Tau deposits were mainly found in neurons, oligodendrocytes and threads; the deposits were diffuse or granular, composed of phosphorylated tau, tau with abnormal conformation and 3Rtau and 4Rtau independently of the type of tauopathy. Truncated tau at the aspartic acid 421 and ubiquitination were absent. Tau deposits had the characteristics of pre-tangles. A percentage of intracellular tau deposits co-localized with active (phosphorylated) tau kinases p38 and ERK 1/2. Present study shows that seeding and spreading of human tau into the brain of WT mice involves neurons and glial cells, mainly oligodendrocytes, thereby supporting the idea of a primary role of oligodendrogliopathy, together with neuronopathy, in the progression of tauopathies. In addition, it suggests that human tau inoculation modifies murine tau metabolism with the production and deposition of 3Rtau and 4Rtau, and by activation of specific tau kinases in affected cells.

Keywords: Aging-related tau astrogliopathy, Globular glial tauopathy, Primary age-related tauopathy, Seeding, Spreading, Tau, Tauopathies


Ferrer, Isidro, García, M. A., González, I. L., Lucena, D. D., Villalonga, A. R., Tech, M. C., Llorens, F., Garcia-Esparcia, P., Martinez-Maldonado, A., Mendez, M. F., Escribano, B. T., Serra, J. J. B., Sabido, E., de la Torre Gómez, C., del Rio, J. A., (2018). Aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG): Not only tau phosphorylation in astrocytes Brain Pathology 28, (6), 965–985

Aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG) is defined by the presence of two types of tau-bearing astrocytes: thorn-shaped astrocytes (TSAs) and granular/fuzzy astrocytes in the brain of old-aged individuals. The present study is focused on TSAs in rare forms of ARTAG with no neuronal tau pathology or restricted to entorhinal and transentorhinal cortices, to avoid bias from associated tauopathies. TSAs show 4Rtau phosphorylation at several specific sites and abnormal tau conformation, but they lack ubiquitin and they are not immunostained with tau-C3 antibodies which recognize truncated tau at Asp421. Astrocytes in ARTAG have atrophic processes, reduced glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and increased superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2) immunoreactivity. Gel electrophoresis and western blotting of sarkosyl-insoluble fractions reveal a pattern of phospho-tau in ARTAG characterized by two bands of 68 and 64 kDa, and several middle bands between 35 and 50 kDa which differ from what is seen in AD. Phosphoproteomics of dissected vulnerable regions identifies an increase of phosphorylation marks in a large number of proteins in ARTAG compared with controls. GFAP, aquaporin 4, several serine-threonine kinases, microtubule associated proteins and other neuronal proteins are among the differentially phosphorylated proteins in ARTAG thus suggesting a hyper-phosphorylation background that affects several molecules, including many kinases and proteins from several cell compartments and various cell types. Finally, present results show for the first time that tau seeding is produced in neurons of the hippocampal complex, astrocytes, oligodendroglia and along fibers of the corpus callosum, fimbria and fornix following inoculation into the hippocampus of wild type mice of sarkosyl-insoluble fractions enriched in hyper-phosphorylated tau from selected ARTAG cases. These findings show astrocytes as crucial players of tau seeding in tauopathies.

Keywords: ARTAG, Kinases, Phosphorylation, Seeding, Tau, Thorn-shaped astrocytes