Tau suppresses microtubule-regulated pancreatic insulin secretion

Mol Psychiatry. 2023 Sep 21. doi: 10.1038/s41380-023-02267-w. Online ahead of print.


Tau protein is implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other tauopathies, but its physiological function is in debate. Mostly explored in the brain, tau is also expressed in the pancreas. We further explored the mechanism of tau's involvement in the regulation of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) in islet β-cells, and established a potential relationship between type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and AD. We demonstrate that pancreatic tau is crucial for insulin secretion regulation and glucose homeostasis. Tau levels were found to be elevated in β-islet cells of patients with T2DM, and loss of tau enhanced insulin secretion in cell lines, drosophila, and mice. Pharmacological or genetic suppression of tau in the db/db diabetic mouse model normalized glucose levels by promoting insulin secretion and was recapitulated by pharmacological inhibition of microtubule assembly. Clinical studies further showed that serum tau protein was positively correlated with blood glucose levels in healthy controls, which was lost in AD. These findings present tau as a common therapeutic target between AD and T2DM.