The roles of cyclin-dependent kinase 5 and glycogen synthase kinase 3 in tau hyperphosphorylation

Florian Plattner, Marco Angelo, K. Peter Giese

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298 Scopus citations


Hyperphosphorylation of the microtubule-associated protein tau is a characteristic feature of neurodegenerative tauopathies including Alzheimer disease. Over-activation of proline-directed kinases, such as cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) and glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3), has been implicated in the aberrant phosphorylation of tau at proline-directed sites. In this study we tested the roles of Cdk5 and GSK3 in tau hyperphosphorylation in vivo using transgenic mice with p25-induced Cdk5 over-activation. We found that over-activation of Cdk5 in young transgenic animals does not induce tau hyperphosphorylation at sites recognized by the antibodies AT8, AT100, PHF-1, and TG3. In fact, we observed that Cdk5 over-activation leads to inhibition of GSK3. However, in old transgenic animals the inhibition of GSK3 is lost and results in increased GSK3 activity, which coincides with tau hyperphosphorylation at the AT8 and PHF-1 sites. Pharmacological inhibition of GSK3 in old transgenic mice by chronic treatment with lithium leads to a reduction of the age-dependent increase in tau hyperphosphorylation. Furthermore, we found that Cdk5, GSK3, and PP2A co-immunoprecipitate, suggesting a functional association of these molecules. Together, these results reveal the role of GSK3 as a key mediator of tau hyperphosphorylation, whereas Cdk5 acts as a modulator of tau hyperphosphorylation via the inhibitory regulation of GSK3. Furthermore, these findings suggest that disruption of regulation of GSK3 activity underlies tau hyperphosphorylation in neurodegenerative tauopathies. Hence, GSK3 may be a prime target for therapeutic intervention in tauopathies including Alzheimer disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25457-25465
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number35
StatePublished - Sep 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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