March 7, 2021

Sauna-like conditions or menthol treatment reduce tau phosphorylation through mild hyperthermia

In Alzheimer’s disease (AD), hyper-phosphorylation and aggregation of tau correlates with clinical progression and represents a valid therapeutic target. A recent 20-year prospective study revealed an association between moderate to high frequency of Finnish sauna bathing and a lower incidence of dementia and AD, but the molecular mechanisms underlying these benefits remain uncertain. Here, we tested the hypothesis that sauna-like conditions could lower tau phosphorylation by increasing body temperature. We observed a decrease in tau phosphorylation in wild-type and hTau mice as well as in neuron-like cells when exposed to higher temperatures. These effects were correlated with specific changes in phosphatase and kinase activities, but not with inflammatory or heat-shock responses. We also used a drug strategy to promote thermogenesis. Topical application of menthol led to a sustained increase in body temperature in hTau mice concomitant with a significant decrease in tau phosphorylation. Our results suggest that sauna-like conditions or menthol treatment could lower tau pathology through mild hyperthermia, and may provide promising therapeutic strategies for AD and other tauopathies.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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