Extracellular truncated tau causes early presynaptic dysfunction associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other tauopathies

Gabriele Ciasca, Marco De Spirito, Massimiliano Papi, Fulvio Florenzano, Corsetti Veronica, Maria Teresa Ciotti, Anna Pittaluga, Gunedalina Olivero, Marco Feligioni, Filomena Iannuzzi, Valentina Latina, Michele Francesco Maria Sciacca, Alessandro Sinopoli, Danilo Milardi, Giuseppe Pappalardo, Anna Atlante, Antonella Bobba, Antonella Borreca, Pietro Calissano, Giuseppina Amadoro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


The largest part of tau secreted from AD nerve terminals and released in cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) is C-terminally truncated, soluble and unaggregated supporting potential extracellular role(s) of NH2-derived fragments of protein on synaptic dysfunction underlying neurodegenerative tauopathies, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Here we show that sub-toxic doses of extracellular-applied human NH2tau 26-44 (aka NH2htau) -which is the minimal active moiety of neurotoxic 20-22kDa peptide accumulating in vivo at AD synapses and secreted into parenchyma- acutely provokes presynaptic deficit in K+-evoked glutamate release on hippocampal synaptosomes along with alteration in local Ca2+ dynamics. Neuritic dystrophy, microtubules breakdown, deregulation in presynaptic proteins and loss of mitochondria located at nerve endings are detected in hippocampal cultures only after prolonged exposure to NH2htau. The specificity of these biological effects is supported by the lack of any significant change, either on neuronal activity or on cellular integrity, shown by administration of its reverse sequence counterpart which behaves as an inactive control, likely due to a poor conformational flexibility which makes it unable to dynamically perturb biomembrane-like environments. Our results demonstrate that one of the AD-relevant, soluble and secreted N-terminally truncated tau forms can early contribute to pathology outside of neurons causing alterations in synaptic activity at presynaptic level, independently of overt neurodegeneration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-34
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Alzheimer
  • tau


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