The role of tau in Alzheimer's disease and related disorders

CNS Neurosci Ther. 2011 Oct;17(5):514-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-5949.2010.00177.x. Epub 2010 Jun 14.


Tau, the microtubule-associated protein, forms insoluble filaments that accumulate as neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related tauopathies. Under physiological conditions, tau regulates the assembly and maintenance of the structural stability of microtubules. In the diseased brain, however, tau becomes abnormally hyperphosphorylated, which ultimately causes the microtubules to disassemble, and the free tau molecules aggregate into paired helical filaments. A large body of evidence suggests that tau hyperphosphorylation results from perturbation of cellular signaling, mainly through imbalance in the activities of different protein kinases and phosphatases. In AD, it appears that ß-amyloid peptide (Aß) plays a pivotal role in triggering this imbalance. In this review, we summarize our current understanding of the role of tau in AD and other tauopathies, and highlight key issues that need to be addressed to improve the success of developing novel therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / enzymology
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation / physiology
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Tauopathies / enzymology
  • Tauopathies / metabolism
  • Tauopathies / pathology
  • tau Proteins / metabolism
  • tau Proteins / physiology*


  • tau Proteins
  • Protein Kinases
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases