Tau phosphorylation and tau mislocalization mediate soluble Aβ oligomer-induced AMPA glutamate receptor signaling deficits

Eur J Neurosci. 2014 Apr;39(7):1214-24. doi: 10.1111/ejn.12507.


In our previous studies, phosphorylation-dependent tau mislocalization to dendritic spines resulted in early cognitive and synaptic deficits. It is well known that amyloid beta (Aβ) oligomers cause synaptic dysfunction by inducing calcineurin-dependent AMPA receptor (AMPAR) internalization. However, it is unknown whether Aβ-induced synaptic deficits depend upon tau phosphorylation. It is also unknown whether changes in tau can cause calcineurin-dependent loss of AMPARs in synapses. Here, we show that tau mislocalizes to dendritic spines in cultured hippocampal neurons from APPSwe Alzheimer's disease (AD)-transgenic mice and in cultured rat hippocampal neurons treated with soluble Aβ oligomers. Interestingly, Aβ treatment also impairs synaptic function by decreasing the amplitude of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (mEPSCs). The above tau mislocalization and Aβ-induced synaptic impairment are both diminished by the expression of AP tau, indicating that these events require tau phosphorylation. The phosphatase activity of calcineurin is important for AMPAR internalization via dephosphorylation of GluA1 residue S845. The effects of Aβ oligomers on mEPSCs are blocked by the calcineurin inhibitor FK506. Aβ-induced loss of AMPARs is diminished in neurons from knock-in mice expressing S845A mutant GluA1 AMPA glutamate receptor subunits. This finding suggests that changes in phosphorylation state at S845 are involved in this pathogenic cascade. Furthermore, FK506 rescues deficits in surface AMPAR clustering on dendritic spines in neurons cultured from transgenic mice expressing P301L tau proteins. Together, our results support the role of tau and calcineurin as two intermediate signaling molecules between Aβ initiation and eventual synaptic dysfunction early in AD pathogenesis.

Keywords: Abeta oligomers; Alzheimer's disease; dendritic spines; mEPSC; synaptic deficits; tau phosphorylation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Calcineurin / metabolism
  • Calcineurin Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dendritic Spines / drug effects
  • Dendritic Spines / metabolism*
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials
  • Mice
  • Miniature Postsynaptic Potentials*
  • Mutation
  • Peptide Fragments / toxicity*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Transport
  • Receptors, AMPA / genetics
  • Receptors, AMPA / metabolism*
  • Tacrolimus / pharmacology
  • tau Proteins / genetics
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Calcineurin Inhibitors
  • Mapt protein, mouse
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Receptors, AMPA
  • amyloid beta-protein (1-42)
  • tau Proteins
  • Calcineurin
  • glutamate receptor ionotropic, AMPA 1
  • Tacrolimus