Tau aggregation and its relation to selected forms of neuronal cell death.
How neurons die in neurodegenerative diseases is still unknown. The distinction between apoptosis as a genetically controlled mechanism, and necrosis, which was viewed as an unregulated process, has blurred with the ever-increasing number of necrotic-like death subroutines underpinned by genetically defined pathways. It is therefore pertinent to ask whether any of them apply to neuronal cell death in tauopathies. Although Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most prevalent tauopathy, tauopathies comprise an array of over 30 diseases in which the cytoplasmic protein tau aggregates in neurons, and also, in some diseases, in glia. Animal models have sought to distil the contribution of tau aggregation to the cell death process but despite intensive research, no one mechanism of cell death has been unequivocally defined. The process of tau aggregation, and the fibrillar structures that form, touch on so many cellular functions that there is unlikely to be a simple linear pathway of death; as one is blocked another is likely to take the lead. It is timely to ask how far we have advanced into defining whether any of the molecular players in the new death subroutines participate in the death process. Here we briefly review the currently known cell death routines and explore what is known about their participation in tau aggregation-related cell death. We highlight the involvement of cell autonomous and the more recent non-cell autonomous pathways that may enhance tau-aggregate toxicity, and discuss recent findings that implicate microglial phagocytosis of live neurons with tau aggregates as a mechanism of death.
National Centre for the Replacement Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC/L000741/1)
European Commission and European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) FP7 Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) (116060)
Alzheimer's Society (384_AS-PG-17-026)