Pathological truncations of human brain proteins represent the common feature of many neurodegenerative disorders including AD (Alzheimer's disease), Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease. Protein truncations significantly change the structure and function of these proteins and thus can engender their pathological metamorphosis. We have shown previously that truncated forms of tau protein are contained in the core of the paired helical filaments that represent the main constituent of neurofibrillary pathology. Recently, we have identified truncated tau species of a different molecular signature. We have found that tau truncation is not produced by a random process, but rather by highly specific proteolytic cleavage and/or non-enzymatic fragmentation. In order to characterize the pathophysiology of AD-specific truncated tau species, we have used a transgenic rat model for AD expressing human truncated tau. Expression of the tau protein induces the formation of novel truncated tau species that originate from both transgenic human tau and endogenous rat tau proteins. Moreover, these truncated tau proteins are found exclusively in the misfolded fraction of tau, suggesting that they actively participate in the tau misfolding process. These findings corroborate further the idea that the appearance of truncated tau species starts a self-perpetuating cycle of further tau protein truncation leading to and accelerating tau misfolding and formation of neurofibrillary pathology.

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