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Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that exhibits pathological changes in both tau and synaptic function. AD patients display increases in hyperphosphorylated tau and synaptic activity. Previous studies have individually identified the role of NR2B subunit-containing NMDA receptors in AD related synaptic dysfunction and aggregated tau without reconciling the conflicting differences and implications of NR2B expression. Inhibition of extrasynaptically located NR2B mitigates tau pathology in AD models, whereas the inhibition of synaptic NR2B replicates tau-associated hyperactivity. This suggests that a simultaneous increase in extrasynaptic NR2B and decrease in synaptic NR2B may be responsible for tau pathology and synaptic dysfunction, respectively. The synaptic location of NR2B is regulated by casein kinase 2 (CK2), which is highly expressed in AD patients. Here, we used patient brains diagnosed with AD, corticobasal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy or Pick's disease to characterize CK2 expression across these diverse tauopathies. Human derived material was also utilized in conjunction with cultured hippocampal neurons in order to investigate AD-induced changes in NR2B location. We further assessed the therapeutic effect of CK2 inhibition on NR2B synaptic distribution and tau pathology. We found that aberrant expression of CK2, and synaptically translocated NR2B, is unique to AD patients compared to other tauopathies. Increased CK2 was also observed in AD-tau treated neurons in addition to the mislocalization of NR2B receptors. Tau burden was alleviated in vitro by correcting synaptic:extrasynaptic NR2B function. Restoring NR2B physiological expression patterns with CK2 inhibition and inhibiting the function of excessive extrasynaptic NR2B with Memantine both mitigated tau accumulation in vitro. However, the combined pharmacological treatment promoted the aggregation of tau. Our data suggests that the synaptic:extrasynaptic balance of NR2B function regulates AD-tau pathogenesis, and that the inhibition of CK2, and concomitant prevention of NR2B mislocalization, may be a useful therapeutic tool for AD patients. © 2022. The Author(s).


Courtney A Marshall, Jennifer D McBride, Lakshmi Changolkar, Dawn M Riddle, John Q Trojanowski, Virginia M-Y Lee. Inhibition of CK2 mitigates Alzheimer's tau pathology by preventing NR2B synaptic mislocalization. Acta neuropathologica communications. 2022 Mar 04;10(1):30

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PMID: 35246269

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