Tau reduction prevents Aβ-induced axonal transport deficits by blocking activation of GSK3β

J Cell Biol. 2015 May 11;209(3):419-33. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201407065.


Axonal transport deficits in Alzheimer's disease (AD) are attributed to amyloid β (Aβ) peptides and pathological forms of the microtubule-associated protein tau. Genetic ablation of tau prevents neuronal overexcitation and axonal transport deficits caused by recombinant Aβ oligomers. Relevance of these findings to naturally secreted Aβ and mechanisms underlying tau's enabling effect are unknown. Here we demonstrate deficits in anterograde axonal transport of mitochondria in primary neurons from transgenic mice expressing familial AD-linked forms of human amyloid precursor protein. We show that these deficits depend on Aβ1-42 production and are prevented by tau reduction. The copathogenic effect of tau did not depend on its microtubule binding, interactions with Fyn, or potential role in neuronal development. Inhibition of neuronal activity, N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor function, or glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β) activity or expression also abolished Aβ-induced transport deficits. Tau ablation prevented Aβ-induced GSK3β activation. Thus, tau allows Aβ oligomers to inhibit axonal transport through activation of GSK3β, possibly by facilitating aberrant neuronal activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / genetics
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Axonal Transport*
  • Enzyme Activation / genetics
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 / genetics
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 / metabolism*
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Peptide Fragments / genetics
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fyn / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fyn / metabolism
  • tau Proteins / genetics
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • MAPT protein, human
  • Mapt protein, mouse
  • Peptide Fragments
  • amyloid beta-protein (1-42)
  • tau Proteins
  • FYN protein, human
  • Fyn protein, mouse
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fyn
  • GSK3B protein, human
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta
  • Gsk3b protein, mouse
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3