A primary pathologic component of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the formation of neurofibrillary tangles composed of hyperphosphorylated tau (p-tau). Expediting the removal of these p-tau species may be a relevant therapeutic strategy. Here we report that inhibition of Hsp90 led to decreases in p-tau levels independent of heat shock factor 1 (HSF1) activation. A critical mediator of this mechanism was carboxy terminus of Hsp70-interacting protein (CHIP), a tau ubiquitin ligase. Cochaperones were also involved in Hsp90-mediated removal of p-tau, while those of the mature Hsp90 refolding complex prevented this effect. This is the first demonstration to our knowledge that blockade of the refolding pathway promotes p-tau turnover through degradation. We also show that peripheral administration of a novel Hsp90 inhibitor promoted selective decreases in p-tau species in a mouse model of tauopathy, further suggesting a central role for the Hsp90 complex in the pathogenesis of tauopathies. When taken in the context of known high-affinity Hsp90 complexes in affected regions of the AD brain, these data implicate a central role for Hsp90 in the development of AD and other tauopathies and may provide a rationale for the development of novel Hsp90-based therapeutic strategies.
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