The later stages of Alzheimer’s disease are characterised by the toxic accumulation of tau protein, leading to neuron death. It has long been debated whether persistent infection and inflammation could be a cause of tau accumulation.
However, a study now suggests that bacterial DNA itself can help ‘seed’ tau aggregation, independently of inflammation. DNA from the E. coli species of bacteria was one of the best promoters of tau aggregation. This is interesting, as E. coli has been found within neurons of the hippocampus, a brain structure extensively damaged in Alzheimer’s disease.
The targeting of bacterial DNA could provide a means to prevent tau aggregation, although whether this would effectively treat Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative diseases remains uncertain.
Future studies should further investigate the possible role of DNA as an initial seeding factor for protein misfolding using cellular and in vivomodels as well as the effect of DNA on inducing misfolding of other proteins, including those associated with neurodegeneration, autoimmune diseases, and cancer. Moreover, subsequent studies should explore the targeting of DNA as a therapeutic strategy to prevent tau aggregation.Tetz, G., Pinho, M., Pritzkow, S., Mendez, N., Soto, C., & Tetz, V. (2020). Bacterial DNA promotes Tau aggregation. Scientific Reports, 10(1). doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-59364-x
Bacterial DNA promotes Tau aggregation: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-59364-x