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Sex-specific Tau methylation patterns and synaptic transcriptional alterations are associated with neural vulnerability during chronic neuroinflammation

Didonna, A;Cant, E;Shams, H;Isobe, N;Zhao, C;Caillier, SJ;Condello, C;Yamate-Morgan, H;Tiwari-Woodruff, SK;Mofrad, MRK;Hauser, SL;Oksenberg, JR;

The molecular events underlying the transition from initial inflammatory flares to the progressive phase of multiple sclerosis (MS) remain poorly understood. Here, we report that the microtubule-associated protein (MAP) Tau exerts a gender-specific protective function on disease progression in the MS model experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). A detailed investigation of the autoimmune response in Tau-deficient mice excluded a strong immunoregulatory role for Tau, suggesting that its beneficial effects are presumably exerted within the central nervous system (CNS). Spinal cord transcriptomic data show increased synaptic dysfunctions and alterations in the NF-kB activation pathway upon EAE in Tau-deficient mice as compared to wildtype animals. We also performed the first comprehensive characterization of Tau post-translational modifications (PTMs) in the nervous system upon EAE. We report that the methylation levels of the conserved lysine residue K306 are significantly decreased in the chronic phase of the disease. By combining biochemical assays and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, we demonstrate that methylation at K306 decreases the affinity of Tau for the microtubule network. Thus, the down-regulation of this PTM might represent a homeostatic response to enhance axonal stability against an autoimmune CNS insult. The results, altogether, position Tau as key mediator between the inflammatory processes and neurodegeneration that seems to unify many CNS diseases. Copyright 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.