Gene That Makes Neurons Vulnerable to Abnormal Levels of Tau Protein Identified in Study

Gene That Makes Neurons Vulnerable to Abnormal Levels of Tau Protein Identified in Study
A study has identified the gene that explains why excitatory neurons — brain cells that excite their targets — are more vulnerable to accumulations of abnormal tau protein aggregates, which are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. The research article, “A tau homeostasis signature is linked with the cellular and regional vulnerability of excitatory neurons to tau pathology,” was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. The accumulation of atypical protein aggregates called tau is a defining feature of Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Specific types of neurons are thought to be susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease, Down’s syndrome, and frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Recent studies have shown that Alzheimer’s disease progressively affects different cell types, and that excitatory cells in brain regions critical to learning and memory — the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus — accumulate tau and are the first to degenerate in the earliest stages of the disease. However, the reasons why specific excitatory neurons are vulnerable to abnormal tau accumulation have not been established. Excitatory and inhibitory neural signals are the “yin and yang” of the brain. Excitatory signaling from one nerve cell to the next makes the recipient cell more likely to fire an electrical signal. Inhibitory signaling makes the recipient cells less likely to fire. This is
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