Lysine 63-linked ubiquitination of tau oligomers contributes to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease

Nicha Puangmalai, Urmi Sengupta, Nemil Bhatt, Sagar Gaikwad, Mauro Montalbano, Arijit Bhuyan, Stephanie Garcia, Salome McAllen, Minal Sonawane, Cynthia Jerez, Yingxin Zhao, Rakez Kayed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ubiquitin-modified tau aggregates are abundantly found in human brains diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other tauopathies. Soluble tau oligomers (TauO) are the most neurotoxic tau species that propagate pathology and elicit cognitive deficits, but whether ubiquitination contributes to tau formation and spreading is not fully understood. Here, we observed that K63-linked, but not K48-linked, ubiquitinated TauO accumulated at higher levels in AD brains compared with age-matched controls. Using mass spectrometry analyses, we identified 11 ubiquitinated sites on AD brain-derived TauO (AD TauO). We found that K63-linked TauO are associated with enhanced seeding activity and propagation in human tau-expressing primary neuronal and tau biosensor cells. Additionally, exposure of tau-inducible HEK cells to AD TauO with different ubiquitin linkages (wild type, K48, and K63) resulted in enhanced formation and secretion of K63-linked TauO, which was associated with impaired proteasome and lysosome functions. Multipathway analysis also revealed the involvement of K63-linked TauO in cell survival pathways, which are impaired in AD. Collectively, our study highlights the significance of selective TauO ubiquitination, which could influence tau aggregation, accumulation, and subsequent pathological propagation. The insights gained from this study hold great promise for targeted therapeutic intervention in AD and related tauopathies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101766
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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