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Translational Neuroscience

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Hyperphosphorylation of tau by GSK-3β in Alzheimer’s disease: The interaction of Aβ and sphingolipid mediators as a therapeutic target

Maja Jembrek
  • Laboratory for Molecular Neuropharmacology, Division of Molecular Medicine, Ruđer Bošković Institute, Zagreb, Croatia
  • Department of Psychology, Croatian Catholic University, Zagreb, Croatia
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/ Mirjana Babić
  • Department for Neuroscience, Croatian Institute for Brain Research, University of Zagreb Medical School, Zagreb, Croatia
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/ Nela Pivac / Patrick Hof
  • Fishberg Department of Neuroscience and Friedman Brain Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, 10029, USA
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/ Goran Šimić
  • Department for Neuroscience, Croatian Institute for Brain Research, University of Zagreb Medical School, Zagreb, Croatia
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Published Online: 2013-12-20 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/s13380-013-0144-z


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the extracellular deposits of β amyloid peptides (Aβ) in senile plaques, and intracellular aggregates of hyperphosphorylated tau in neurofibrillary tangles (NFT). Although accumulation of Aβ has been long considered a leading hypothesis in the disease pathology, it is increasingly evident that the role hyperphosphorylation of tau in destabilization of microtubule assembly and disturbance of axonal transport is equally detrimental in the neurodegenerative process. The main kinase involved in phosphorylation of tau is glycogen-synthase kinase 3-beta (GSK-3β). Intracellular accumulation of Aβ also likely induces increase in hyperphosphorylated tau by a mechanism dependent on GSK-3β. In addition, Aβ affects production of ceramides, the major sphingolipids in mammalian cells, by acting on sphingomyelinases, enzymes responsible for the catabolic formation of ceramides from the sphingomyelin. Generated ceramides in turn increase production of Aβ by acting on β-secretase, a key enzyme in the proteolytic processing of the amyloid precursor protein (APP), altogether leading to a ceramide-Aβ-hyperphosphorylated tau cascade that ends in neuronal death. Modulators and inhibitors acting on members of this devastating cascade are considered as potential targets for AD therapy. There is still no adequate treatment for AD patients. Novel therapeutic strategies increasingly consider the combination of multiple targets and interactions among the key members of implicated molecular pathways. This review summarizes recent findings and therapeutic perspectives in the pathology and treatment of AD, with the emphasis on the interplay between hyperphosphorylated tau, amyloid β, and sphingolipid mediators.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Tau hyperphosphorylation; Glycogen-synthase kinase 3β; Amyloid β; Sphingolipids

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About the article

Published Online: 2013-12-20

Published in Print: 2013-12-01

Citation Information: Translational Neuroscience, Volume 4, Issue 4, Pages 466–476, ISSN (Online) 2081-6936, ISSN (Print) 2081-3856, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/s13380-013-0144-z.

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