Approximately 44 million people worldwide live with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or a related form of dementia. Aggregates of the microtubule-associated protein tau are a common marker of these neurodegenerative diseases collectively termed as tauopathies. However, all therapeutic attempts based on tau have failed, suggesting that tau may only indicate a higher-level causal mechanism. For example, increasing levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) may trigger protein aggregation or modulate protein degradation. Here we show that type 4 NADPH oxidase (NOX), the most abundant isoform of the only dedicated reactive oxygen producing enzyme family, is upregulated in dementia and AD patients and in a humanized mouse model of tauopathy. Both global knockout and neuronal knockdown of the Nox4 gene in mice, diminished the accumulation of pathological tau and positively modified established tauopathy by a mechanism that implicates modulation of the autophagy-lysosomal pathway (ALP). Moreover, neuronal-targeted NOX4 knockdown was sufficient to reduce neurotoxicity and prevented cognitive decline, suggesting a direct and causal role for neuronal NOX4. Thus, NOX4 is a previously unrecognized causal, mechanism-based target in tauopathies and blood-brain barrier permeable specific NOX4 inhibitors could have therapeutic potential even in established disease.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience