Quantification and localization of kainic acid-induced neurotoxicity employing a new biomarker of cell death: cleaved microtubule-associated protein-tau (C-tau).
Previous studies of neuronal degeneration induced by the neurotoxin, kainic acid, employed silver stain techniques that are non-quantitative or ELISA measurement of the non-neuronal protein, glial fibrillary acidic protein. As previous studies employed biomarkers that were either non-quantitative or non-neuronal, the present study employed a new neuronally localized biomaker of neuronal damage, cleaved microtubule-associated protein (MAP)-tau (C-tau). The time course of kainate neurotoxicity was quantitatively determined in several brain regions in the present study employing a C-tau specific ELISA. Differences in ELISA determined regional brain levels of C-tau were compared with the density of somatodendritic C-tau labeling qualitatively determined in immunohistochemical anatomical mapping studies of kainic acid-treated animals. Immunoblot studies revealed that the C-tau antibodies employed in the present study were highly specific for proteolytic cleaved C-tau. Immunolabeling of 45 kD-50 kD C-tau proteins was observed only in brain samples from kainic acid-treated but not vehicle-treated rats. Time course studies revealed that C-tau levels determined by ELISA were maximal 3 days after kainic acid with C-tau levels increasing 26-fold in hippocampus, 16-fold in cortex and four-fold in both striatum and hypothalamus. These statistical differences in maximal C-tau levels observed in the ELISA studies were similar to differences qualitatively observed in C-tau immunohistochemical studies. C-tau immunohistochemistry revealed extensive damage in hippocampal regions CA1 and 3, moderate damage in several cortical regions and mild damage in striatum and hypothalamus. Similar cleavage of rat MAP-tau to C-tau has been reported after neuronal degeneration induced by neurotoxic doses of methamphetamine and neuronal degeneration resulting from bacterial meningitis. In humans, C-tau proteolysis has been demonstrated to be a reliable biomarker of neuronal damage in traumatic brain injury and stroke where cerebrospinal C-tau levels are correlated with patient clinical outcome. These data suggest that C-tau proteolysis may prove a reliable species independent biomarker of neuronal degeneration regardless of source of injury.