Elevation of soluble wild-type (WT) tau occurs in synaptic compartments in Alzheimer’s disease. We addressed whether tau elevation affects synaptic transmission at the calyx of Held in slices from mice brainstem. Whole-cell loading of WT human tau (h-tau) in presynaptic terminals at 10–20 µM caused microtubule (MT) assembly and activity-dependent rundown of excitatory neurotransmission. Capacitance measurements revealed that the primary target of WT h-tau is vesicle endocytosis. Blocking MT assembly using nocodazole prevented tau-induced impairments of endocytosis and neurotransmission. Immunofluorescence imaging analyses revealed that MT assembly by WT h-tau loading was associated with an increased MT-bound fraction of the endocytic protein dynamin. A synthetic dodecapeptide corresponding to dynamin 1-pleckstrin-homology domain inhibited MT-dynamin interaction and rescued tau-induced impairments of endocytosis and neurotransmission. We conclude that elevation of presynaptic WT tau induces de novo assembly of MTs, thereby sequestering free dynamins.
As a result, endocytosis and subsequent vesicle replenishment are impaired, causing activity-dependent rundown of neurotransmission.