Patterns of neuronal Rhes as a novel hallmark of tauopathies

The farnesyltransferase inhibitor, Lonafarnib, reduces tau inclusions and associated atrophy in familial tauopathy models through activation of autophagy, mediated by the inhibition of farnesylation of the Ras GTPase, Rhes. While hinting at a role of Rhes in tau aggregation, it is unclear how translatable these results are for sporadic forms of tauopathy. We examined histological slides of allocortex and neocortex from multiple postmortem cases in five different tauopathies, FTLD-TDP, and healthy controls using immunofluorescence for Rhes, several tau post-translational modifications, and phospho-TDP-43. Single nucleus RNA data suggest that Rhes is found in all cortical neuron subpopulations but not in glia. Histologic investigation showed that nearly all neurons in control brains display a pattern of diffuse cytoplasmic Rhes positivity. However, in the presence of abnormal tau, but not abnormal TDP-43, the patterns of neuronal cytoplasmic Rhes tend to present as either punctiform or entirely absent. This observation reinforces the relevance of findings that link Rhes changes and tau pathology from the in vivo and in vitro models of tauopathy. The results here support a potential clinical application of Lonafarnib to tauopathies.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Autopsy; Farnesyltransferase; Human; Neuropathology; Tauopathies.