Mutual Relationship between Tau and Central Insulin Signalling: Consequences for AD and Tauopathies?

Neuroendocrinology. 2018;107(2):181-195. doi: 10.1159/000487641. Epub 2018 Feb 13.


Alzheimer disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder mainly characterized by cognitive deficits and neuropathological changes such as Tau lesions and amyloid plaques, but also associated with non-cognitive symptomatology. Metabolic and neuroendocrine abnormalities, such as alterations in body weight, brain insulin impairments, and lower brain glucose metabolism, which often precede clinical diagnosis, have been extensively reported in AD patients. However, the origin of these symptoms and their relation to pathology and cognitive impairments remain misunderstood. Insulin is a hormone involved in the control of energy homeostasis both peripherally and centrally, and insulin-resistant state has been linked to increased risk of dementia. It is now well established that insulin resistance can exacerbate Tau lesions, mainly by disrupting the balance between Tau kinases and phosphatases. On the other hand, the emerging literature indicates that Tau protein can also modulate insulin signalling in the brain, thus creating a detrimental vicious circle. The following review will highlight our current understanding of the role of insulin in the brain and its relation to Tau protein in the context of AD and tauopathies. Considering that insulin signalling is prone to be pharmacologically targeted at multiple levels, it constitutes an appealing approach to improve both insulin brain sensitivity and mitigate brain pathology with expected positive outcome in terms of cognition.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease; Brain insulin signalling; Metabolic disorders; Tau; Tauopathy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Tauopathies / metabolism*
  • Tauopathies / pathology
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Insulin
  • tau Proteins