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Vascular dementia (VaD) is the second most common form of dementia in the United States and is characterized as a cerebral vessel vascular disease that leads to ischemic episodes. Whereas the relationship between caspase-cleaved tau and neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has been previously described, whether caspase activation and cleavage of tau occurs in VaD is presently unknown. To investigate a potential role for caspase-cleaved tau in VaD, we analyzed seven confirmed cases of VaD by immunohistochemistry utilizing a well-characterized antibody that specifically detects caspase-cleaved tau truncated at Asp421. Application of this antibody (TauC3) revealed consistent labeling within NFTs, dystrophic neurites within plaque-rich regions and corpora amylacea (CA) in the human VaD brain. Labeling of CA by the TauC3 antibody was widespread throughout the hippocampus proper, was significantly higher compared to age matched controls, and co-localized with ubiquitin. Staining of the TauC3 antibody co-localized with MC-1, AT8, and PHF-1 within NFTs. Quantitative analysis indicated that roughly 90% of PHF-1-labeled NFTs contained caspase-cleaved tau. In addition, we documented the presence of active caspase-3 within plaques, blood vessels and pretangle neurons that co-localized with TauC3. Collectively, these data support a role for the activation of caspase-3 and proteolytic cleavage of TauC3 in VaD providing further support for the involvement of this family of proteases in NFT pathology.

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This document was originally published by PLoS in PLoS ONE. This work is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International. Details regarding the use of this work can be found at: doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0132637

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