Tau and TDP-43 proteinopathies: kindred pathologic cascades and genetic pleiotropy

Yevgen Chornenkyy, David W. Fardo, Peter T. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


We review the literature on Tau and TDP-43 proteinopathies in aged human brains and the relevant underlying pathogenetic cascades. Complex interacting pathways are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD), wherein multiple proteins tend to misfold in a manner that is “reactive,” but, subsequently, each proteinopathy may contribute strongly to the clinical symptoms. Tau proteinopathy exists in brains of individuals across a broad spectrum of primary underlying conditions—e.g., developmental, traumatic, and inflammatory/infectious diseases. TDP-43 proteinopathy is also expressed in a wide range of clinical disorders. Although TDP-43 proteinopathy was first described in the central nervous system of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and in subtypes of frontotemporal dementia (FTD/FTLD), TDP-43 proteinopathy is also present in chronic traumatic encephalopathy, cognitively impaired persons in advanced age with hippocampal sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, and other diseases. We list known Tau and TDP-43 proteinopathies. There is also evidence of cellular co-localization between Tau and TDP-43 misfolded proteins, suggesting common pathways or protein interactions facilitating misfolding in one protein by the other. Multiple pleiotropic gene variants can alter risk for Tau or TDP-43 pathologies, and certain gene variants (e.g., APOE ε4, Huntingtin triplet repeats) are associated with increases of both Tau and TDP-43 proteinopathies. Studies of genetic risk factors have provided insights into multiple nodes of the pathologic cascades involved in Tau and TDP-43 proteinopathies. Variants from a specific gene can be either a low-penetrant risk factor for a group of diseases, or alternatively, a different variant of the same gene may be a disease-driving allele that is associated with a relatively aggressive and early-onset version of a clinically and pathologically specific disease type. Overall, a complex but enlightening paradigm has emerged, wherein both Tau and TDP-43 proteinopathies are linked to numerous overlapping upstream influences, and both are associated with multiple downstream pathologically- and clinically-defined deleterious effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)993-1007
Number of pages15
JournalLaboratory Investigation
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, United States & Canadian Academy of Pathology.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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