Dysregulation of insulin signaling, glucose transporters, O-GlcNAcylation, and phosphorylation of tau and neurofilaments in the brain: Implication for Alzheimer's disease

Am J Pathol. 2009 Nov;175(5):2089-98. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2009.090157. Epub 2009 Oct 8.


Recent studies have suggested a possible role of insulin dysfunction in the pathogenesis of sporadic Alzheimer's disease (AD). In AD, brain glucose metabolism is impaired, and this impairment appears to precede the pathology and clinical symptoms of the disease. However, the exact contribution of impaired insulin signaling to AD is not known. In this study, by using a nontransgenic rat model of sporadic AD generated by intracerebroventricular administration of streptozotocin, we investigated insulin signaling, glucose transporters, protein O-GlcNAcylation, and phosphorylation of tau and neurofilaments in the brain. We found impaired insulin signaling, overactivation of glycogen synthase kinase-3beta, decreased levels of major brain glucose transporters, down- regulated protein O-GlcNAcylation, increased phosphorylation of tau and neurofilaments, and decreased microtubule-binding activity of tau in the brains of streptozotocin-treated rats. These results suggest that impaired brain insulin signaling may lead to overactivation of glycogen synthase kinase-3beta and down-regulation of O-GlcNAcylation, which, in turn, facilitate abnormal hyperphosphorylation of tau and neurofilaments and, consequently, neurofibrillary degeneration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylglucosamine / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease* / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease* / pathology
  • Alzheimer Disease* / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glucose Transport Proteins, Facilitative / genetics
  • Glucose Transport Proteins, Facilitative / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferases / genetics
  • N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Neurofilament Proteins / genetics
  • Neurofilament Proteins / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Streptozocin / metabolism
  • tau Proteins / genetics
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Glucose Transport Proteins, Facilitative
  • Insulin
  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • tau Proteins
  • Streptozocin
  • N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferases
  • Glucose
  • Acetylglucosamine