Alzheimer disease (AD) and related tauopathies are all characterized histopathologically by neurofibrillary degeneration. The neurofibrillary changes, whether of paired helical filaments (PHF), twisted ribbons or straight filaments (SF) are made up of abnormally hyperphosphorylated tau. Unlike normal tau which promotes assembly and maintains structure of microtubules, the abnormal tau not only lacks these functions but also sequesters normal tau, MAP1 and MAP2, and causes disassembly of microtubules. This toxic behavior of the abnormal tau is solely due to its hyperphosphorylation because dephosphorylation restores it into a normal-like protein. The abnormal hyperphosphorylation also promotes the self-assembly of tau into PHF/SF. The state of phosphorylation of a phosphoprotein is the function of the activities of protein kinases and as well as of protein phosphatases that regulate the level of phosphorylation. A cause of the abnormal hyperphosphorylation in AD brain is a decrease in the activity of protein phosphatase (PP)-2A, a major regulator of the phosphorylation of tau. A decrease in PP-2A activity results in the abnormal hyperphosphorylation of tau not only by decreased dephosphorylation of tau but also by stimulating the activities of tau kinases like CaMKII, PKA and MAP kinases which are regulated by PP-2A. Thus, the abnormal hyperphosphorylation can be inhibited both by inhibition of the activity/s of a tau protein kinase and as well as by restoration of the activity/s of a tau protein phosphatase. The development of drugs that inhibit neurofibrillary degeneration is a very promising and feasible therapeutic approach to inhibit the progression of AD and related tauopathies.
Keywords: alzheimer disease, tauopathies, microtubule assembly, microtube associated protein tau, abnormally hyperphosphorylated tau, protein phosphatase-a, memantine, neurofibrillary pathology
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