Frontotemporal dementia-associated N279K tau mutant disrupts subcellular vesicle trafficking and induces cellular stress in iPSC-derived neural stem cells

Melissa C. Wren, Jing Zhao, Chia Chen Liu, Melissa E. Murray, Yuka Atagi, Mary D. Davis, Yuan Fu, Hirotaka J. Okano, Kotaro Ogaki, Audrey J. Strongosky, Pawel Tacik, Rosa Rademakers, Owen A. Ross, Dennis W. Dickson, Zbigniew K. Wszolek, Takahisa Kanekiyo, Guojun Bu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Background: Pallido-ponto-nigral degeneration (PPND), a major subtype of frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism related to chromosome 17 (FTDP-17), is a progressive and terminal neurodegenerative disease caused by c.837 T∈>∈G mutation in the MAPT gene encoding microtubule-associated protein tau (rs63750756; N279K). This MAPT mutation induces alternative splicing of exon 10, resulting in a modification of microtubule-binding region of tau. Although mutations in the MAPT gene have been linked to multiple tauopathies including Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia and progressive supranuclear palsy, knowledge regarding how tau N279K mutation causes PPND/FTDP-17 is limited. Results: We investigated the underlying disease mechanism associated with the N279K tau mutation using PPND/FTDP-17 patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and autopsy brains. In iPSC-derived neural stem cells (NSCs), the N279K tau mutation induced an increased ratio of 4-repeat to 3-repeat tau and accumulation of stress granules indicating elevated cellular stress. More significant, NSCs derived from patients with the N279K tau mutation displayed impaired endocytic trafficking as evidenced by accumulation of endosomes and exosomes, and a reduction of lysosomes. Since there were no significant differences in cellular stress and distribution of subcellular organelles between control and N279K skin fibroblasts, N279K-related vesicle trafficking defects are likely specific to the neuronal lineage. Consistently, the levels of intracellular/luminal vesicle and exosome marker flotillin-1 were significantly increased in frontal and temporal cortices of PPND/FTDP-17 patients with the N279K tau mutation, events that were not seen in the occipital cortex which is the most spared cortical region in the patients. Conclusion: Together, our results demonstrate that alterations of intracellular vesicle trafficking in NSCs/neurons likely contribute to neurodegeneration as an important disease mechanism underlying the N279K tau mutation in PPND/FTDP-17.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number42
JournalMolecular neurodegeneration
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 15 2015


  • FTDP-17
  • N279K
  • Neural stem cells
  • PPND
  • Tau
  • iPSCs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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