Stable Mutated tau441 Transfected SH-SY5Y Cells as Screening Tool for Alzheimer's Disease Drug Candidates

J Mol Neurosci. 2012 May;47(1):192-203. doi: 10.1007/s12031-012-9716-6. Epub 2012 Feb 19.


The role of hyperphosphorylation of the microtubule-associated protein tau in the pathological processes of several neurodegenerative diseases is becoming better understood. Consequently, development of new compounds capable of preventing tau hyperphosphorylation is an increasingly hot topic. For this reason, dependable in vitro and in vivo models that reflect tau hyperphosphorylation in human diseases are needed. In this study, we generated and validated an in vitro model appropriate to test potential curative and preventive compound effects on tau phosphorylation. For this purpose, a stably transfected SH-SY5Y cell line was constructed over-expressing mutant human tau441 (SH-SY5Y-TMHT441). Analyses of expression levels and tau phosphorylation status in untreated cells confirmed relevance to human diseases. Subsequently, the effect of different established kinase inhibitors on tau phosphorylation (e.g., residues Thr231, Thr181, and Ser396) was examined. It was shown with several methods including immunosorbent assays and mass spectrometry that the phosphorylation pattern of tau in SH-SY5Y-TMHT441 cells can be reliably modulated by these compounds, specifically targeting JNK, GSK-3, CDK1/5, and CK1. These four protein kinases are known to be involved in in vivo tau phosphorylation and are therefore authentic indicators for the suitability of this new cell culture model for tauopathies.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Design
  • Genetic Testing / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mutagenesis / physiology
  • Neuroblastoma / drug therapy
  • Neuroblastoma / genetics
  • Neuroblastoma / pathology
  • Pharmacogenetics / methods*
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Phosphorylation / genetics
  • Tauopathies / drug therapy
  • Tauopathies / genetics
  • Tauopathies / metabolism
  • Transfection / methods
  • tau Proteins / genetics*


  • MAPT protein, human
  • tau Proteins