Brain insulin response and peripheral metabolic changes in a Tau transgenic mouse model

Neurobiol Dis. 2019 May;125:14-22. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2019.01.008. Epub 2019 Jan 19.


Accumulation of hyper-phosphorylated and aggregated Tau proteins is a neuropathological hallmark of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and Tauopathies. AD patient brains also exhibit insulin resistance. Whereas, under normal physiological conditions insulin signaling in the brain mediates plasticity and memory formation, it can also regulate peripheral energy homeostasis. Thus, in AD, brain insulin resistance affects both cognitive and metabolic changes described in these patients. While a role of Aβ oligomers and APOE4 towards the development of brain insulin resistance emerged, contribution of Tau pathology has been largely overlooked. Our recent data demonstrated that one of the physiological function of Tau is to sustain brain insulin signaling. We postulated that under pathological conditions, hyper-phosphorylated/aggregated Tau is likely to lose this function and to favor the development of brain insulin resistance. This hypothesis was substantiated by observations from patient brains with pure Tauopathies. To address the potential link between Tau pathology and brain insulin resistance, we have evaluated the brain response to insulin in a transgenic mouse model of AD-like Tau pathology (THY-Tau22). Using electrophysiological and biochemical evaluations, we surprisingly observed that, at a time when Tau pathology and cognitive deficits are overt and obvious, the hippocampus of THY-Tau22 mice exhibits enhanced response to insulin. In addition, we demonstrated that the ability of i.c.v. insulin to promote body weight loss is enhanced in THY-Tau22 mice. In line with this, THY-Tau22 mice exhibited a lower body weight gain, hypoleptinemia and hypoinsulinemia and finally a metabolic resistance to high-fat diet. The present data highlight that the brain of transgenic Tau mice exhibit enhanced brain response to insulin. Whether these observations are ascribed to the development of Tau pathology, and therefore relevant to human Tauopathies, or unexpectedly results from the Tau transgene overexpression is debatable and discussed.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Insulin resistance; Metabolism; THY-Tau22; Tau; Transgenic mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Tauopathies / metabolism*
  • tau Proteins / genetics
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Insulin
  • tau Proteins