The microtubule associated protein tau accumulates in neurodegenerative diseases known as tauopathies, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease (AD). One way to treat these disorders may be to reduce abnormal tau levels through chaperone manipulation, thus subverting synaptic plasticity defects caused by tau’s toxic accretion.
Tauopathy models were used to study the impact of YM-01 on tau. YM-01 is an allosteric promoter of triage functions of the most abundant variant of the Hsp70 family in the brain, Hsc70. The mechanisms by which YM-01 modified Hsc70 activity and tau stability were evaluated with biochemical methods, cell cultures and primary neuronal cultures from tau transgenic mice. YM-01 was also administered to acute brain slices of tau mice; changes in tau stability and electrophysiological correlates of learning and memory were measured.
Tau levels were rapidly and potently reduced in vitro and ex vivo upon treatment with nanomolar concentrations of YM-01. Consistent with Hsc70 having a key role in this process, over-expression of Hsp40 (DNAJB2), an Hsp70 co-chaperone, suppressed YM-01 activity. In contrast to its effects in pathogenic tauopathy models, YM-01 had little activity in ex vivo brain slices from normal, wildtype mice unless microtubules were disrupted, suggesting that Hsc70 acts preferentially on abnormal pools of free tau. Finally, treatment with YM-01 increased long-term potentiation in from tau transgenic brain slices.
Therapeutics that exploit the ability of chaperones to selectively target abnormal tau can rapidly and potently rescue the synaptic dysfunction that occurs in AD and other tauopathies.