Spleen tyrosine kinase (SYK) blocks autophagic Tau degradation in vitro and in vivo

Schweig, Jonas Elias; Yao, Hailan; Coppola, Kyle; Jin, Chao; Crawford, Fiona; Mullan, Michael and Paris, Daniel (2019). Spleen tyrosine kinase (SYK) blocks autophagic Tau degradation in vitro and in vivo. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 294(36) pp. 13378–13395.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.RA119.008033


Spleen tyrosine kinase (SYK) plays a major role in inflammation and in adaptive immune responses and could therefore contribute to the neuroinflammation observed in various neurodegenerative diseases. Indeed, previously we have reported that SYK also regulates amyloid β (Aβ) production and hyperphosphorylation of Tau protein involved in these diseases. Moreover, SYK hyperactivation occurs in a subset of activated microglia, in dystrophic neurites surrounding Aβ deposits, and in neurons affected by Tau pathology both in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and in AD mouse models. SYK activation increases Tau phosphorylation and accumulation, suggesting that SYK could be an attractive target for treating AD. However, the mechanism by which SYK affects Tau pathology is not clear. In this study, using cell biology and biochemical approaches, along with immuno -precipitation and -blotting, RT-qPCR, and ELISA assays, we found that SYK inhibition increases autophagic Tau degradation without impacting Tau production. Using neuronlike SH-SY5Y cells, we demonstrate that SYK acts upstream of the mTOR pathway and that pharmacological inhibition or knockdown of SYK decreases mTOR pathway activation and increases autophagic Tau degradation. Interestingly, chronic SYK inhibition in a tauopathy mouse model profoundly reduced Tau accumulation, neuroinflammation, neuronal and synaptic loss and also reversed defective autophagy. Our results further suggest that the SYK up-regulation observed in the brains of individuals with AD contributes to defective autophagic clearance leading to the accumulation of pathogenic Tau species. These findings further highlight SYK as a therapeutic target for the treatment of tauopathies and other neurodegenerative proteinopathies associated with defective autophagic clearance.

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