Role of Tau Protein in Both Physiological and Pathological Conditions

Physiol Rev. 2004 Apr;84(2):361-84. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00024.2003.


The morphology of a neuron is determined by its cytoskeletal scaffolding. Thus proteins that associate with the principal cytoskeletal components such as the microtubules have a strong influence on both the morphology and physiology of neurons. Tau is a microtubule-associated protein that stabilizes neuronal microtubules under normal physiological conditions. However, in certain pathological situations, tau protein may undergo modifications, mainly through phosphorylation, that can result in the generation of aberrant aggregates that are toxic to neurons. This process occurs in a number of neurological disorders collectively known as tauopathies, the most commonly recognized of which is Alzheimer's disease. The purpose of this review is to define the role of tau protein under normal physiological conditions and to highlight the role of the protein in different tauopathies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Microtubules / physiology
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational / physiology
  • Tauopathies / pathology
  • Tauopathies / physiopathology
  • tau Proteins / chemistry*
  • tau Proteins / genetics*
  • tau Proteins / physiology*


  • tau Proteins