Soluble Tau has devastating effects on the structural plasticity of hippocampal granule neurons.

Bolós M, Pallas-Bazarra N, Terreros-Roncal J, Perea JR, Jurado-Arjona J, Ávila J, Llorens-Martín M.

Translational Psychiatry.
doi: 10.1038/s41398-017-0013-6.

Tau is a neuronal microtubule-associated protein with countless physiological functions. Although the detrimental effects of insoluble aggregated Tau have been widely studied, recent evidence supports the notion that soluble Tau (composed mostly of monomers and dimers) is also toxic for neurons. Here we evaluated the long-term impact of a single stereotaxic injection of human soluble Tau on hippocampal granule neurons in mice. At the ultrastructural level, soluble Tau reduced the number of afferent synapses and caused a dramatic depletion of synaptic vesicles both in afferent and efferent synapses. Furthermore, the use of an RFP-expressing retrovirus revealed that soluble Tau altered the morphology of newborn granule neurons and reduced their afferent (dendritic spines) and efferent (mossy fiber terminals) connectivity. Finally, soluble Tau caused specific impairment of behavioral pattern separation capacity. Our results thus demonstrate for the first time that soluble Tau causes long-term detrimental effects on the morphology and connectivity of newborn granule neurons and that these effects correlate with impaired behavioral pattern separation skills. These data might be relevant for the field of neurodegenerative disorders, since they contribute to reinforcing the pathological roles played by distinct Tau species in vivo.

Cognitive Decline in Neuronal Aging and Alzheimer's Disease: Role of NMDA Receptors and Associated Proteins.

Avila J, Llorens-Martín M, Pallas-Bazarra N, Bolós M, Perea JR, Rodríguez-Matellán A, Hernández F.

Frontiers in Neuroscience.
doi: 10.3389/fnins.2017.00626.

Molecular changes associated with neuronal aging lead to a decrease in cognitive capacity. Here we discuss these alterations at the level of brain regions, brain cells, and brain membrane and cytoskeletal proteins with an special focus in NMDA molecular changes through aging and its effect in cognitive decline and Alzheimer disease. Here, we propose that some neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimer's disease (AD), are characterized by an increase and acceleration of some of these changes.

Absence of CX3CR1 impairs the internalization of Tau by microglia.

Bolós M, Llorens-Martín M, Perea JR, Jurado-Arjona J, Rábano A, Hernández F, Avila J.

Molecular Neurodegeneration.
doi: 10.1186/s13024-017-0200-1.

Extracellular Tau is toxic for neighboring cells, and it contributes to the progression of AD. The CX3CL1/CX3CR1 axis is an important neuron/microglia communication mechanism. We studied Tau clearance by microglia both in vitro (microglia primary cultures treated with Cy5-Tau, affinity chromatography to study the binding of Tau to CX3CR1, and Tau-CX3CL1 competition assays) and in vivo (stereotaxic injection of Cy5-Tau into WT and CX3CR1-/- mice). The expression of CX3CR1, CX3CL1 and the microglial phagocytic phenotype were studied in brain tissue samples from AD patients. Tau binding to CX3CR1 triggers the internalization of the former by microglia, whereas S396 Tau phosphorylation decreases the binding affinity of this protein to CX3CR1. Of note, the progressive increase in the levels of phosho-Tau occurred in parallel with an increase in CX3CR1. In addition, our studies suggest that the phagocytic capacity of microglia in brain tissue samples from AD patients is decreased. Furthermore, the CX3CR1/CX3CL1 axis may be impaired in late stages of the disease. Our data suggest that the CX3CR1/CX3CL1 axis plays a key role in the phagocytosis of Tau by microglia in vitro and in vivo and that it is affected as AD progresses. Taken together, our results reveal CX3CR1 as a novel target for the clearance of extracellular Tau.

GSK-3β Overexpression Alters the Dendritic Spines of Developmentally Generated Granule Neurons in the Mouse Hippocampal Dentate Gyrus.

Pallas-Bazarra N, Kastanauskaite A, Avila J, DeFelipe J, Llorens-Martín M.

Nature Medicine.
doi: 10.1038/s41591-019-0375-9.

The dentate gyrus (DG) plays a crucial role in hippocampal-related memory. The most abundant cellular type in the DG, namely granule neurons, are developmentally generated around postnatal day P6 in mice. Moreover, a unique feature of the DG is the occurrence of adult hippocampal neurogenesis, a process that gives rise to newborn granule neurons throughout life. Adult-born and developmentally generated granule neurons share some maturational aspects but differ in others, such as in their positioning within the granule cell layer. Adult hippocampal neurogenesis encompasses a series of plastic changes that modify the function of the hippocampal trisynaptic network. In this regard, it is known that glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK-3β) regulates both synaptic plasticity and memory. By using a transgenic mouse overexpressing GSK-3β in hippocampal neurons, we previously demonstrated that the overexpression of this kinase has deleterious effects on the maturation of newborn granule neurons. In the present study, we addressed the effects of GSK-3β overexpression on the morphology and number of dendritic spines of developmentally generated granule neurons. To this end, we performed intracellular injections of Lucifer Yellow in developmentally generated granule neurons of wild-type and GSK-3β-overexpressing mice and analyzed the number and morphologies of dendritic spines (namely, stubby, thin and mushroom). GSK-3β overexpression led to a general reduction in the number of dendritic spines. In addition, it caused a slight reduction in the percentage, head diameter and length of thin spines, whereas the head diameter of mushroom spines was increased.

Versatile use of rtTA-expressing retroviruses in the study of neurodegeneration.

Teixeira CM, Ávila J, Llorens-Martín M.

doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.14386.

We propose that the use of viral vectors expressing either tTA or rtTA elements in combination with tetR mouse models will contribute to improving our knowledge of the cell-autonomous effects of proteins thought to be pathological in certain contexts. In addition, these data may contribute to the design successful treatments for, but not limited to, neurodegenerative disorders.


Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa (CBMSO) Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Campus de Cantoblanco)
C/ Nicolás Cabrera 1 - 28049 Madrid (Spain)

María Llorens-Martín (PI)
+34 911964632