Calpain-mediated tau cleavage: A mechanism leading to neurodegeneration shared by multiple tauopathies

Adriana Ferreira*, Eileen H. Bigio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Tau dysfunction has been associated with a host of neurodegenerative diseases called tauopathies. These diseases share, as a common pathological hallmark, the presence of intracellular aggregates of hyperphosphorylated tau in affected brain areas. Aside from tau hyperphosphorylation, little is known about the role of other posttranslational modifications in tauopathies. Recently, we obtained data suggesting that calpain-mediated tau cleavage leading to the generation of a neurotoxic tau fragment might play an important role in Alzheimer's disease. In the current study, we assessed the presence of this tau fragment in several tauopathies. Our results show high levels of the 17-kDa tau fragment and enhanced calpain activity in the temporal cortex of AD patients and in brain samples obtained from patients with other tauopathies. In addition, our data suggest that this fragment could partially inhibit tau aggregation. Conversely, tau aggregation might prevent calpain-mediated cleavage, establishing a feedback circuit that might lead to the accumulation of this toxic tau fragment. Collectively, these data suggest that the mechanism underlying the generation of the 17-kDa neurotoxic tau fragment might be part of a conserved pathologic process shared by multiple tauopathies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)676-685
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Medicine
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Jul 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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