Tau protein is involved in morphological plasticity in hippocampal neurons in response to BDNF

Neurochem Int. 2012 Feb;60(3):233-42. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2011.12.013. Epub 2011 Dec 31.


Tau protein, a microtubule-associated protein involved in a number of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), may undergo modifications under both physiological and pathological conditions. However, the signaling pathways that couple tau protein to neuronal physiology such as synaptic plasticity have not yet been elucidated. Here we report that tau protein is involved in morphological plasticity in response to brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Stimulation of the cultured rat hippocampal neurons with BDNF resulted in increased tau protein expression, as detected by Western blotting. Furthermore, tau protein accumulated in the distal region of the neurite when treated with taxol or taxol plus BDNF. The increased tau protein also protected neurons against nocodazole-induced dendrite loss. Moreover, BDNF promoted spine growth as well as tau protein over-expression. Knockdown of tau protein using specific short-hairpin RNA (shRNA) significantly decreased the spine density. And BDNF could not increase the spine density of tau-knockdown neurons. These results highlight a possible role for tau protein in the dynamic rearrangement of cytoskeletal fibers vital for BDNF-induced synaptic plasticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / pharmacology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dendritic Spines / drug effects
  • Dendritic Spines / ultrastructure
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Gene Silencing / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Hippocampus / drug effects*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neurites / drug effects
  • Neurites / ultrastructure
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects*
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Nocodazole / pharmacology
  • Paclitaxel / pharmacology
  • Phosphorylation
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Transfection
  • tau Proteins / genetics
  • tau Proteins / physiology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • tau Proteins
  • Paclitaxel
  • Nocodazole