Frost B, Hemberg M, Lewis J, Feany MB.
Tau promotes neurodegeneration through global chromatin relaxation.
Nat Neurosci. 2014 Mar;17(3) Epub 2014 Jan 26
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These findings provide a unique and novel perspective on how tau pathology may be driving neurodegeneration in tauopathies. Importantly, the authors demonstrated that the tau-induced toxicity could be rescued by restoring heterochromatin, a strategy that could be advantageous in therapeutic development. This study has particular relevance to the work ongoing in our laboratory, striving to understand how the chaperone network interacts with tau. Although it has been known for more than 30 years that heat shock proteins play a role in regulating chromatin structure and gene expression, relatively few studies have focused on this aspect of chaperone biology. It will be interesting to see if future work can determine how tau-chaperone dynamics influence this loss of heterochromatin and whether manipulating that relationship provides protection. These exciting avenues of research should complement existing investigations into tauopathies as scientists continue to obtain a deeper understanding of neurodegenerative diseases and AD.