Tau Modulates mRNA Transcription, Alternative Polyadenylation Profiles of hnRNPs, Chromatin Remodeling and Spliceosome Complexes

Mauro Montalbano, Elizabeth Jaworski, Stephanie Garcia, Anna Ellsworth, Salome McAllen, Andrew Routh, Rakez Kayed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tau protein is a known contributor in several neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). It is well-established that tau forms pathological aggregates and fibrils in these diseases. Tau has been observed within the nuclei of neurons, but there is a gap in understanding regarding the mechanism by which tau modulates transcription. We are interested in the P301L mutation of tau, which has been associated with FTD and increased tau aggregation. Our study utilized tau-inducible HEK (iHEK) cells to reveal that WT and P301L tau distinctively alter the transcription and alternative polyadenylation (APA) profiles of numerous nuclear precursors mRNAs, which then translate to form proteins involved in chromatin remodeling and splicing. We isolated total mRNA before and after over-expressing tau and then performed Poly(A)-ClickSeq (PAC-Seq) to characterize mRNA expression and APA profiles. We characterized changes in Gene Ontology (GO) pathways using EnrichR and Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA). We observed that P301L tau up-regulates genes associated with reactive oxygen species responsiveness as well as genes involved in dendrite, microtubule, and nuclear body/speckle formation. The number of genes regulated by WT tau is greater than the mutant form, which indicates that the P301L mutation causes loss-of-function at the transcriptional level. WT tau up-regulates genes contributing to cytoskeleton-dependent intracellular transport, microglial activation, microtubule and nuclear chromatin organization, formation of nuclear bodies and speckles. Interestingly, both WT and P301L tau commonly down-regulate genes responsible for ubiquitin-proteosome system. In addition, WT tau significantly down-regulates several genes implicated in chromatin remodeling and nucleosome organization. Although there are limitations inherent to the model systems used, this study will improve understanding regarding the nuclear impact of tau at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional level. This study also illustrates the potential impact of P301L tau on the human brain genome during early phases of pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number742790
JournalFrontiers in Molecular Neuroscience
StatePublished - Dec 3 2021


  • alternative polyadenylation
  • frontal temporal dementia
  • gene ontology
  • gene set enrichment analysis
  • neurodegenaration
  • tau

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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