Atypical Role of Proximal Caspase-8 in Truncated Tau-Induced Neurite Regression and Neuronal Cell Death

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Abnormal Tau protein is known to be closely associated with several neurodegenerative diseases. Previously, we showed that Tau was cleaved by caspase-3 to generate the cleavage product lacking the C-terminus (ΔTau-1) during neuronal cell death. Here we characterized caspase-8-dependent neurotoxicity of the truncated Tau. Introduction of ΔTau-1 into primary hippocampal neurons induced loss of neurites in a caspase-dependent manner. Caspase-8 and -6 were proteolytically activated during ΔTau-1-triggered neuronal cell death, which was suppressed by IETD-fmk, caspase-8 inhibitor. Direct targeting of caspase-8 and its associated FADD with antisense approaches and transient expression of their dominant-negative mutants reduced ΔTau-1-induced apopotosis. Cells deficient in caspase-8, but not caspase-3, became sensitized to ΔTau-1-mediated toxicity upon reconstitution with caspase-8. In addition, ectopic expression of mitochondrial antiapoptotic Bcl-2, Bcl-XL, or inactive caspase-9 short form suppressed ΔTau-1 toxicity. These results suggest that the truncated Tau protein activates proximal caspase-8 through FADD as a necessary step leading to neuronal cell death and neurite regression, contributing to the progression of abnormal Tau-associated neurodegeneracy.