The multifaceted roles of glycogen synthase kinase 3beta in cellular signaling

Prog Neurobiol. 2001 Nov;65(4):391-426. doi: 10.1016/s0301-0082(01)00011-9.


Glycogen synthase kinase-3beta (GSK3beta) is a fascinating enzyme with an astoundingly diverse number of actions in intracellular signaling systems. GSK3beta activity is regulated by serine (inhibitory) and tyrosine (stimulatory) phosphorylation, by protein complex formation, and by its intracellular localization. GSK3beta phosphorylates and thereby regulates the functions of many metabolic, signaling, and structural proteins. Notable among the signaling proteins regulated by GSK3beta are the many transcription factors, including activator protein-1, cyclic AMP response element binding protein, heat shock factor-1, nuclear factor of activated T cells, Myc, beta-catenin, CCAAT/enhancer binding protein, and NFkappaB. Lithium, the primary therapeutic agent for bipolar mood disorder, is a selective inhibitor of GSK3beta. This raises the possibility that dysregulation of GSK3beta and its inhibition by lithium may contribute to the disorder and its treatment, respectively. GSK3beta has been linked to all of the primary abnormalities associated with Alzheimer's disease. These include interactions between GSK3beta and components of the plaque-producing amyloid system, the participation of GSK3beta in phosphorylating the microtubule-binding protein tau that may contribute to the formation of neurofibrillary tangles, and interactions of GSK3beta with presenilin and other Alzheimer's disease-associated proteins. GSK3beta also regulates cell survival, as it facilitates a variety of apoptotic mechanisms, and lithium provides protection from many insults. Thus, GSK3beta has a central role regulating neuronal plasticity, gene expression, and cell survival, and may be a key component of certain psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Bipolar Disorder / physiopathology
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases / physiology*
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / physiology
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinases
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Transcription Factors
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinases
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3