Protein astrogliopathies in human neurodegenerative diseases and aging

Abstract

Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by progressive dysfunction and loss of neurons associated with depositions of pathologically altered proteins showing hierarchical involvement of brain regions. The role of astrocytes in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases is explored as contributors to neuronal degeneration or neuroprotection pathways, and also as potential mediators of the transcellular spreading of disease-associated proteins. Protein astrogliopathy (PAG), including deposition of amyloid-β, prion protein, tau, α-synuclein, and very rarely transactive response DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) is not unprecedented or unusual in neurodegenerative diseases. Morphological characterization of PAG is considered, however, only for the neuropathological diagnosis and classification of tauopathies. Astrocytic tau pathology is seen in primary frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) associated with tau pathologies (FTLD-Tau), and also in the form of aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG). Importantly, ARTAG shares common features with primary FTLD-Tau as well as with the astroglial tau pathologies that are thought to be hallmarks of a brain injury-related tauopathy known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Supported by experimental observations, the morphological variability of PAG might reflect distinct pathogenic involvement of different astrocytic populations. PAG might indicate astrocytic contribution to spreading or clearance of disease-associated proteins, however, this might lead to astrocytic dysfunction and eventually contribute to the degeneration of neurons. Here, we review recent advances in understanding ARTAG and other related forms of PAG.

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