Tau is a microtubule-associated protein expressed in neuronal axons. Hyperphosphorylated tau is a major component of neurofibrillary tangles, a pathological hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Hyperphosphorylated tau aggregates are also found in many neurodegenerative diseases, collectively referred to as “tauopathies,” and tau mutations are associated with familial frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). Previous studies have generated transgenic mice with mutant tau as tauopathy models, but nonhuman primates, which are more similar to humans, may be a better model to study tauopathies. For example, the common marmoset is poised as a nonhuman primate model for investigating the etiology of age-related neurodegenerative diseases. However, no biochemical studies of tau have been conducted in marmoset brains. Here, we investigated several important aspects of tau, including expression of different tau isoforms and its phosphorylation status, in the marmoset brain. We found that marmoset tau does not possess the “primate-unique motif” in its N-terminal domain. We also discovered that the tau isoform expression pattern in marmosets is more similar to that of mice than that of humans, with adult marmoset brains expressing only four-repeat tau isoforms as in adult mice but unlike in adult human brains. Of note, tau in brains of marmoset newborns was phosphorylated at several sites associated with AD pathology. However, in adult marmoset brains, much of this phosphorylation was lost, except for Ser-202 and Ser-404 phosphorylation. These results reveal key features of tau expression and phosphorylation in the marmoset brain, a potentially useful nonhuman primate model of neurodegenerative diseases.
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