The microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) aggregates and accumulates in multiple neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer?s disease (AD). Abnormal tau accumulation leads to oligomerization and formation of neurofibrillary tangles associated with neuronal loss, synaptic dysfunction, and cognitive impairments. While tau undergoes different post-translational modifications including phosphorylation, acetylation, and ubiquitination, ubiquitination is critical for tau turnover via the ubiquitin-proteasome system and autophagy-lysosome pathways. Tau is known to be ubiquitinated by various E3 ligases, including CHIP, TRAF6, and MARCH7. However, very little is known about the role of deubiquitinases (DUBs) in the regulation of tau function, turnover, or tauopathy. The human genome encodes >90 DUBs. Ubiquitin specific peptidases (USPs) are the largest family of DUBs comprising ~50 members in humans. Of these, 27 are expressed in the CNS. Our results from an unbiased screen of CNS-expressed DUBs identified USP11 and USP13 as positive regulators of tau. By taking advantage of mouse models and human postmortem tissues together with molecular, cell biological, imaging, biochemical, electrophysiological, behavioral, viral, histochemical, and recombinant protein toolsets, this proposal will 1. validate the role of USP11 in tau pathogenesis as a function of age and sex in vivo, and 2. determine the mechanistic basis of USP11 in tau stability, aggregation, and toxicity in genetically modified neurons and in vitro systems. Successful conclusion of these studies will determine the significant contribution of USP11, and its DUB activity, to tauopathy in humans and mice as a function of aging and sex. USP11 levels could in part account for potential sex differences in severity of tauopathy in humans and mice. Moreover, these results will provide novel mechanistic insights to USP11 DUB activity, in concert with RanBP9, in tau modification and toxicity.
Tau pathology (tauopathy) is a prevailing hallmark of Alzheimer?s disease (AD) and multiple other neurodegenerative diseases. This proposal aims to understand how USP11, multi-functional enzyme known to remove ubiquitin conjugates from proteins, contribute to tauopathy in brain. This proposal will allow us to determine if USP11 enzymatic activity and associated molecular mechanisms represent promising targets to mitigate tau pathogenesis.