Journal Article

Functional genomic screen and network analysis reveal novel modifiers of tauopathy dissociated from tau phosphorylation

Surendra S. Ambegaokar and George R. Jackson

in Human Molecular Genetics

Volume 20, issue 24, pages 4947-4977
Published in print December 2011 | ISSN: 0964-6906
Published online September 2011 | e-ISSN: 1460-2083 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddr432

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A functional genetic screen using loss-of-function and gain-of-function alleles was performed to identify modifiers of tau-induced neurotoxicity using the 2N/4R (full-length) isoform of wild-type human tau expressed in the fly retina. We previously reported eye pigment mutations, which create dysfunctional lysosomes, as potent modifiers; here, we report 37 additional genes identified from ∼1900 genes screened, including the kinases shaggy/GSK-3beta, par-1/MARK, CamKI and Mekk1. Tau acts synergistically with Mekk1 and p38 to down-regulate extracellular regulated kinase activity, with a corresponding decrease in AT8 immunoreactivity (pS202/T205), suggesting that tau can participate in signaling pathways to regulate its own kinases. Modifiers showed poor correlation with tau phosphorylation (using the AT8, 12E8 and AT270 epitopes); moreover, tested suppressors of wild-type tau were equally effective in suppressing toxicity of a phosphorylation-resistant S11A tau construct, demonstrating that changes in tau phosphorylation state are not required to suppress or enhance its toxicity. Genes related to autophagy, the cell cycle, RNA-associated proteins and chromatin-binding proteins constitute a large percentage of identified modifiers. Other functional categories identified include mitochondrial proteins, lipid trafficking, Golgi proteins, kinesins and dynein and the Hsp70/Hsp90-organizing protein (Hop). Network analysis uncovered several other genes highly associated with the functional modifiers, including genes related to the PI3K, Notch, BMP/TGF-β and Hedgehog pathways, and nuclear trafficking. Activity of GSK-3β is strongly upregulated due to TDP-43 expression, and reduced GSK-3β dosage is also a common suppressor of Aβ42 and TDP-43 toxicity. These findings suggest therapeutic targets other than mitigation of tau phosphorylation.

Journal Article.  20511 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Genetics and Genomics

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