Targeting Tau Mitigates Mitochondrial Fragmentation and Oxidative Stress in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Tiziana Petrozziello, Evan A. Bordt, Alexandra N. Mills, Spencer E. Kim, Ellen Sapp, Benjamin A. Devlin, Abigail A. Obeng-Marnu, Sali M.K. Farhan, Ana C. Amaral, Simon Dujardin, Patrick M. Dooley, Christopher Henstridge, Derek H. Oakley, Andreas Neueder, Bradley T. Hyman, Tara L. Spires-Jones, Staci D. Bilbo, Khashayar Vakili, Merit E. Cudkowicz, James D. BerryMarian DiFiglia, M. Catarina Silva, Stephen J. Haggarty, Ghazaleh Sadri-Vakili*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Understanding the mechanisms underlying amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is crucial for the development of new therapies. Previous studies have demonstrated that mitochondrial dysfunction is a key pathogenetic event in ALS. Interestingly, studies in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) post-mortem brain and animal models link alterations in mitochondrial function to interactions between hyperphosphorylated tau and dynamin-related protein 1 (DRP1), the GTPase involved in mitochondrial fission. Recent evidence suggest that tau may be involved in ALS pathogenesis, therefore, we sought to determine whether hyperphosphorylated tau may lead to mitochondrial fragmentation and dysfunction in ALS and whether reducing tau may provide a novel therapeutic approach. Our findings demonstrated that pTau-S396 is mis-localized to synapses in post-mortem motor cortex (mCTX) across ALS subtypes. Additionally, the treatment with ALS synaptoneurosomes (SNs), enriched in pTau-S396, increased oxidative stress, induced mitochondrial fragmentation, and altered mitochondrial connectivity without affecting cell survival in vitro. Furthermore, pTau-S396 interacted with DRP1, and similar to pTau-S396, DRP1 accumulated in SNs across ALS subtypes, suggesting increases in mitochondrial fragmentation in ALS. As previously reported, electron microscopy revealed a significant decrease in mitochondria density and length in ALS mCTX. Lastly, reducing tau levels with QC-01-175, a selective tau degrader, prevented ALS SNs-induced mitochondrial fragmentation and oxidative stress in vitro. Collectively, our findings suggest that increases in pTau-S396 may lead to mitochondrial fragmentation and oxidative stress in ALS and decreasing tau may provide a novel strategy to mitigate mitochondrial dysfunction in ALS. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)683-702
Number of pages20
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number1
Early online date10 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Hyperphosphorylated tau
  • Mitochondrial dynamics
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction
  • Tau degrader


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