Tau Oligomers and Fibrils Exhibit Differential Patterns of Seeding and Association With RNA Binding Proteins

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Tau aggregates are pleiotropic and exhibit differences in conformation, structure, and size. These aggregates develop endogenously but are also propagated among neurons in disease. We explored the actions of two distinct types of tau aggregates, tau oligomers (oTau) and tau fibrils (fTau), using a seeding assay in primary neuron cultures expressing human 4R0N tau. We find that oTau and fTau elicit distinct patterns of tau inclusions in the neurons and distinct molecular interactions. The exogenously applied oTau and fTau both clear rapidly from the neurons, but both also seed intracellular inclusions composed of endogenously produced tau. The two types of seeds elicit differential dose–response relationships for seed uptake and the number of resulting intracellular inclusions. Immunocytochemical studies show that co-localization with RNA binding proteins associated with stress granules is much greater for seeds composed of oTau than fTau. Conversely, co-localization with p62/SQSTM1 and thioflavine S is much greater for fTau than oTau. These results suggest that oTau seeds inclusions that modulate the translational stress response and are physiologically active, whereas fTau seeds inclusions that are fibrillar and shunted to the autolysosomal cascade.

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