Glial cells and adaptive immunity in frontotemporal dementia with tau pathology (Équipe Dorothée)

February 03 - 2021

Iain J. Hartnell, David Blum, James A.R. Nicoll, Guillaume Dorothée, Delphine Boche

Brain. 2021

Neuroinflammation is involved in the aetiology of many neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and motor neuron disease. Whether neuroinflammation also plays an important role in the pathophysiology of frontotemporal dementia is less well known. Frontotemporal dementia is a heterogeneous classification that covers many subtypes, with the main pathology known as frontotemporal lobar degeneration. The disease can be categorized with respect to the identity of the protein that causes the frontotemporal lobar degeneration in the brain. The most common subgroup describes diseases caused by frontotemporal lobar degeneration associated with tau aggregation, also known as primary tauopathies. Evidence suggests that neuroinflammation may play a role in primary tauopathies with genome-wide association studies finding enrichment of genetic variants associated with specific inflammation-related gene loci. These loci are related to both the innate immune system, including brain resident microglia, and the adaptive immune system through possible peripheral T-cell involvement. This review discusses the genetic evidence and relates it to findings in animal models expressing pathogenic tau as well as to post-mortem and PET studies in human disease. Across experimental paradigms, there seems to be a consensus regarding the involvement of innate immunity in primary tauopathies, with increased microglia and astrocyte density and/or activation, as well as increases in pro-inflammatory markers. Whilst it is less clear as to whether inflammation precedes tau aggregation or vice versa; there is strong evidence to support a microglial contribution to the propagation of hyperphosphorylated in tau frontotemporal lobar degeneration associated with tau aggregation. Experimental evidence-albeit limited-also corroborates genetic data pointing to the involvement of cellular adaptive immunity in primary tauopathies. However, it is still unclear whether brain recruitment of peripheral immune cells is an aberrant result of pathological changes or a physiological aspect of the neuroinflammatory response to the tau pathology.

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Sorbonne Université Medicine
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