Influence of traumatic brain injury on extracellular tau elimination at the blood–brain barrier

Eisenbaum, Maxwell; Pearson, Andrew; Gratkowski, Arissa; Mouzon, Benoit; Mullan, Michael; Crawford, Fiona; Ojo, Joseph and Bachmeier, Corbin (2021). Influence of traumatic brain injury on extracellular tau elimination at the blood–brain barrier. Fluids and Barriers of the CNS, 18(1), article no. 48.



Repetitive head trauma has been associated with the accumulation of tau species in the brain. Our prior work showed brain vascular mural cells contribute to tau processing in the brain, and that these cells progressively degenerate following repetitive mild traumatic brain injury (r-mTBI). The current studies investigated the role of the cerebrovasculature in the elimination of extracellular tau from the brain, and the influence of r-mTBI on these processes. Following intracranial injection of biotin-labeled tau, the levels of exogenous labeled tau residing in the brain were elevated in a mouse model of r-mTBI at 12 months post-injury compared to r-sham mice, indicating reduced tau elimination from the brain following head trauma. This may be the result of decreased caveolin-1 mediated tau efflux at the blood–brain barrier (BBB), as the caveolin inhibitor, methyl-β-cyclodextrin, significantly reduced tau uptake in isolated cerebrovessels and significantly decreased the basolateral-to-apical transit of tau across an in vitro model of the BBB. Moreover, we found that the upstream regulator of endothelial caveolin-1, Mfsd2a, was elevated in r-mTBI cerebrovessels compared to r-sham, which coincided with a decreased expression of cerebrovascular caveolin-1 in the chronic phase following r-mTBI (> 3 months post-injury). Lastly, angiopoietin-1, a mural cell-derived protein governing endothelial Mfsd2a expression, was secreted from r-mTBI cerebrovessels to a greater extent than r-sham animals. Altogether, in the chronic phase post-injury, release of angiopoietin-1 from degenerating mural cells downregulates caveolin-1 expression in brain endothelia, resulting in decreased tau elimination across the BBB, which may describe the accumulation of tau species in the brain following head trauma.

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