Torpor induces reversible tau hyperphosphorylation and accumulation in mice expressing human tau

C. F. de Veij Mestdagh, M. E. Witte, W. Scheper, A. B. Smit, R. H. Henning, R. E. van Kesteren

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    Tau protein hyperphosphorylation and aggregation are key pathological events in neurodegenerative tauopathies such as Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly, seasonal hibernators show extensive tau hyperphosphorylation during torpor, i.e., the hypothermic and hypometabolic state of hibernation, which is completely reversed during arousal. Torpor-associated mechanisms that reverse tau hyperphosphorylation may be of therapeutic relevance, however, it is currently not known to what extent they apply to human tau. Here we addressed this issue using daily torpor in wildtype mice that express mouse tau (mtau) and in mice that lack mtau expression and instead express human tau (htau). AT8, AT100 and Ser396 immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry were used to assess tau (hyper)phosphorylation at clinically relevant phosphorylation sites. We found that torpor robustly and reversibly increases the levels of phosphorylated tau in both mtau and htau mice. Immunohistochemistry revealed four brain areas that show prominent tau phosphorylation: the hippocampus, posterior parietal cortex, piriform cortex and cortical amygdala. Whereas wildtype mice primarily showed increased levels of diffusely organized hyperphosphorylated tau during torpor, htau mice contained clear somato-dendritic accumulations of AT8 reactivity resembling tau pre-tangles as observed in the Alzheimer brain. Interestingly, AT8-positive accumulations disappeared upon arousal, and tau phosphorylation levels at 24 h after arousal were lower than observed at baseline, suggesting a beneficial effect of torpor-arousal cycles on preexisting hyperphosphorylated tau. In conclusion, daily torpor in mice offers a quick and standardized method to study tau phosphorylation, accumulation and clearance in mouse models relevant for neurodegeneration, as well as opportunities to discover new targets for the treatment of human tauopathies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number86
    Pages (from-to)1-11
    Number of pages11
    JournalActa Neuropathologica Communications
    Early online date4 Jun 2024
    Publication statusPublished - 2024


    • AT8 somato-dendritic accumulation
    • Alzheimer’s Disease
    • Hibernation
    • Human tau expressing mice
    • Mouse torpor
    • Tau hyperphosphorylation

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