Abnormal hyperphosphorylation of microtubule-associated protein tau plays a crucial role in neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease (AD). The aggregation of hyperphosphorylated tau into neurofibrillary tangles is also a hallmark brain lesion of AD. Tau phosphorylation is regulated by tau kinases, tau phosphatases, and O-GlcNAcylation, a posttranslational modification of proteins on the serine or threonine residues with β-N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc). O-GlcNAcylation is dynamically regulated by O-GlcNAc transferase, the enzyme catalyzing the transfer of GlcNAc to proteins, and N-acetylglucosaminidase (OGA), the enzyme catalyzing the removal of GlcNAc from proteins. Thiamet-G is a recently synthesized potent OGA inhibitor, and initial studies suggest it can influence O-GlcNAc levels in the brain, allowing OGA inhibition to be a potential route to altering disease progression in AD. In this study, we injected thiamet-G into the lateral ventricle of mice to increase O-GlcNAcylation of proteins and investigated the resulting effects on site-specific tau phosphorylation. We found that acute thiamet-G treatment led to a decrease in tau phosphorylation at Thr181, Thr212, Ser214, Ser262/Ser356, Ser404 and Ser409, and an increase in tau phosphorylation at Ser199, Ser202, Ser396 and Ser422 in the mouse brain. Investigation of the major tau kinases showed that acute delivery of a high dose of thiamet-G into the brain also led to a marked activation of glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β), possibly as a consequence of down-regulation of its upstream regulating kinase, AKT. However, the elevation of tau phosphorylation at the sites above was not observed and GSK-3β was not activated in cultured adult hippocampal progenitor cells or in PC12 cells after thiamet-G treatment. These results suggest that acute high-dose thiamet-G injection can not only directly antagonize tau phosphorylation, but also stimulate GSK-3β activity, with the downstream consequence being site-specific, bi-directional regulation of tau phosphorylation in the mammalian brain.
Yu Y, Zhang L, Li X, Run X, Liang Z, et al. (2012) Differential Effects of an O-GlcNAcase Inhibitor on Tau Phosphorylation. PLoS ONE 7(4): e35277. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0035277
Differential Effects of an O-GlcNAcase Inhibitor on Tau Phosphorylation
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