January 17, 2021

Selective human tau protein expression in different clock circuits of the Drosophila brain disrupts different aspects of sleep and circadian rhythms

Circadian behavioural deficits, such as increased daytime naps and reduced night-time sleep, are common in Alzheimer’s disease and other tauopathies. But it has remained unclear whether these circadian abnormalities arise from tau pathology in either the master pacemaker or downstream neurons. Here we study this question by selectively expressing different human tau proteins in specific Drosophila brain circuits and monitoring locomotor activity under light-dark (LD) and in "free-running" dark-dark (DD) conditions. We show that expressing human tau proteins in the fly brain recapitulates faithfully several behavioural changes found in tauopathies. We identify discrete neuronal subpopulations within the clock network as the primary target of distinct circadian behavioural disturbances in different environmental conditions. Specifically, we show that the PDF-positive pacemaker neurons are the main site for night-activity gain and -sleep loss, whereas the non-PDF clock-neurons are the main site of reduced intrinsic behavioural rhythmicity. Bioluminescence measurements revealed that the molecular clock is intact despite the behavioural arrhythmia. Our results establish that dysfunction in both the central clock- and afferent clock-neurons jointly contribute to the circadian locomotor activity rhythm disruption in Drosophila expressing human tau.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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