PTEN activation contributes to neuronal and synaptic engulfment by microglia in tauopathy

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Abstract

Phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) regulates synaptic density in development; however, whether PTEN also regulates synapse loss in a neurodegenerative disorder such as frontotemporal lobar degeneration with Tau deposition (FTLD-Tau) has not been explored. Here, we found that pathological Tau promotes early activation of PTEN, which precedes apoptotic caspase-3 cleavage in the rTg4510 mouse model of FTLD-Tau. We further demonstrate increased synaptic and neuronal exposure of the apoptotic signal phosphatidylserine that tags neuronal structures for microglial uptake, thereby linking PTEN activation to synaptic and neuronal structure elimination. By applying pharmacological inhibition of PTEN’s protein phosphatase activity, we observed that microglial uptake can be decreased in Tau transgenic mice. Finally, we reveal a dichotomous relationship between PTEN activation and age in FTLD-Tau patients and healthy controls. Together, our findings suggest that in tauopathy, PTEN has a role in the synaptotoxicity of pathological Tau and promotes microglial removal of affected neuronal structures.

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