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A cortical immune network map identifies a subset of human microglia involved in Tau pathology

By Ellis Patrick, Marta Olah, Mariko Taga, Hans-Ulrich Klein, Jishu Xu, Charles C White, Daniel Felsky, Chris Gaiteri, Lori B Chibnik, Sara Mostafavi, Julie A Schneider, David A. Bennett, Elizabeth M Bradshaw, Phillip L. De Jager

Posted 14 Dec 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/234351

Microglial dysfunction has been proposed as one of the many cellular mechanisms that can contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Here, using a transcriptional network map of the human frontal cortex, we identify five gene modules of coexpressed genes related to microglia and assess their role in the neuropathologic features of AD in 541 subjects from two cohort studies of brain aging. Two of these transcriptional programs - modules 113 and 114 - relate to the accumulation of β-amyloid, while module 5 relates to tau pathology. These modules are also detectable in the human brain's epigenome, where we replicate these associations. In terms of tau, we propose that module 5, a marker of activated microglia, may lead to tau accumulation and subsequent cognitive decline. We validate our model further by showing that VASP, a representative module 5 gene, encodes a protein that is upregulated in activated microglia in AD.

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