Analysis of brain microtubule protein from patients with Alzheimer's disease showed decreased alpha tubulin levels along with increased acetylation of the alpha tubulin subunit, mainly in those microtubules from neurons containing neurofibrillary tau pathology. To determine the relationship of tau protein and increased tubulin acetylation, we studied the effect of tau on the acetylation-deacetylation of tubulin. Our results indicate that tau binds to the tubulin-deacetylase, histone deacetylase 6 (HDAC6), decreasing its activity with a consequent increase in tubulin acetylation. As expected, increased acetylation was also found in tubulin from wild-type mice compared with tubulin from mice lacking tau because of the tau-mediated inhibition of the deacetylase. In addition, we found that an excess of tau protein, as a HDAC6 inhibitor, prevents induction of autophagy by inhibiting proteasome function.