Image of the Day: Clustered Memories

Using super-resolution microscopy, scientists learned how mutant tau causes a memory-related protein to clump up in mouse neurons.

Aug 5, 2019
Nicoletta Lanese
The signaling protein Fyn captured using super-resolution microscopy in a mouse hippocampal neuron
MEUNIER LAB/UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND

The characteristic tau protein tangles seen in Alzheimer’s disease may cause clumping in a key protein for memory formation, researchers reported June 25 in eLife. Using super-resolution single molecule imaging, the scientists observed the inner workings of living mouse brain cells and found that tau controls the physical organization of the memory-related protein, Fyn.

“When Tau is mutated, Fyn makes aberrantly large clusters, thereby altering nerve signals and contributing to dysfunction of the synapse-junctions between nerve cells,” says coauthor  Frédéric Meunier, a neuroscientist at the Queensland Brain Institute, in an announcement. The researchers went on to see how Fyn interacts with a tau mutant found in individuals at high risk of developing frontotemporal dementia. In mouse models, the mutant drives Fyn to cluster along the dendrites stretching from each neuron, which could promote toxic cellular activity and disrupt learning over the animals’ lifespan.

P. Padmanabhan et al., “Frontotemporal dementia mutant Tau promotes aberrant Fyn nanoclustering in hippocampal dendritic spines,” doi:10.7554/eLife.45040, eLife, 2019.

Nicoletta Lanese is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at nlanese@the-scientist.com.