Cellular and pathological heterogeneity of primary tauopathies

Dah eun Chloe Chung, Shanu Roemer, Leonard Petrucelli, Dennis W. Dickson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Microtubule-associated protein tau is abnormally aggregated in neuronal and glial cells in a range of neurodegenerative diseases that are collectively referred to as tauopathies. Multiple studies have suggested that pathological tau species may act as a seed that promotes aggregation of endogenous tau in naïve cells and contributes to propagation of tau pathology. While they share pathological tau aggregation as a common feature, tauopathies are distinct from one another with respect to predominant tau isoforms that accumulate and the selective vulnerability of brain regions and cell types that have tau inclusions. For instance, primary tauopathies present with glial tau pathology, while it is mostly neuronal in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Also, morphologies of tau inclusions can greatly vary even within the same cell type, suggesting distinct mechanisms or distinct tau conformers in each tauopathy. Neuropathological heterogeneity across tauopathies challenges our understanding of pathophysiology behind tau seeding and aggregation, as well as our efforts to develop effective therapeutic strategies for AD and other tauopathies. In this review, we describe diverse neuropathological features of tau inclusions in neurodegenerative tauopathies and discuss what has been learned from experimental studies with mouse models, advanced transcriptomics, and cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) on the biology underlying cell type-specific tau pathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number57
JournalMolecular neurodegeneration
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Animal models
  • Astrocytes
  • Cryo-EM
  • MAPT
  • Microglia
  • Oligodendroglia
  • Tau
  • Tauopathy
  • Transcriptomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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