Ablation of tau causes an olfactory deficit in a murine model of Parkinson's disease

Leah C. Beauchamp, Jacky Chan, Lin W. Hung, Benjamin S. Padman, Laura J. Vella, Xiang M. Liu, Bradley Coleman, Ashley I. Bush, Michael Lazarou, Andrew F. Hill, Laura Jacobson, Kevin J. Barnham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Web of Science)


Parkinson's disease is diagnosed upon the presentation of motor symptoms, resulting from substantial degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the midbrain. Prior to diagnosis, there is a lengthy prodromal stage in which non-motor symptoms, including olfactory deficits (hyposmia), develop. There is limited information about non-motor impairments and there is a need for directed research into these early pathogenic cellular pathways that precede extensive dopaminergic death in the midbrain. The protein tau has been identified as a genetic risk factor in the development of sporadic PD. Tau knockout mice have been reported as an age-dependent model of PD, and this study has demonstrated that they develop motor deficits at 15-months-old. We have shown that at 7-month-old tau knockout mice present with an overt hyposmic phenotype. This olfactory deficit correlates with an accumulation of α-synuclein, as well as autophagic impairment, in the olfactory bulb. This pathological feature becomes apparent in the striatum and substantia nigra of 15-month-old tau knockout mice, suggesting the potential for a spread of disease. Initial primary cell culture experiments have demonstrated that ablation of tau results in the release of α-synuclein enriched exosomes, providing a potential mechanism for disease spread. These alterations in α-synuclein level as well as a marked autophagy impairment in the tau knockout primary cells recapitulate results seen in the animal model. These data implicate a pathological role for tau in early Parkinson's disease.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
JournalActa Neuropathologica Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


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