Age-dependent changes in the ultrastructure and in the molecular composition of rat brain microtubules

J Neurochem. 1992 Sep;59(3):1126-37. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.1992.tb08355.x.


An age-dependent increase of a cathepsin D-like protease activity that preferentially degrades high molecular weight microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) has been previously described. Microtubules (MT) purified from rat brain of different ages in the presence of several protease inhibitors retained undegraded MAPs through cycles of polymerization, and revealed several age-dependent changes in the relative amounts of MAPs and MT-associated kinases. MAP2 immunoreactivity was found significantly lower in MT preparations from aged animals in contrast with a relative increase of tau molecules. In addition, the phosphorylation of MAP2 by its associated cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase was also altered, consecutively to the partial loss of the enzyme during polymerization cycles and an age-dependent decrease in the ability of the cyclic nucleotide to stimulate MAP2-bound kinase activity. The evidence of an unusually high packing density of sedimented MT from old rat brains further suggested the modification with aging of the physical structure of the arm-like projections of MAPs, in addition to a lower amount in high molecular weight MAPs. These results support the hypothesis of a selective alteration with aging of the mechanical and regulatory properties of brain MT, consecutive to a change in the composition and/or the structure of MAPs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / ultrastructure*
  • Cyclic AMP / pharmacology
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Female
  • Immunoblotting
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microtubule Proteins / metabolism
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Microtubules / ultrastructure*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Microtubule Proteins
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Cyclic AMP