Increased MAP kinase activity in Alzheimer's and Down syndrome but not in schizophrenia human brain

Published on May 1, 2004in European Journal of Neuroscience2.784
· DOI :10.1111/j.0953-816X.2004.03365.x
Jane E . Swatton3
Estimated H-index: 3
(Babraham Institute),
Lynda A. Sellers22
Estimated H-index: 22
(Babraham Institute)
+ 3 AuthorsSabine Bahn55
Estimated H-index: 55
(University of Cambridge)
Introduction Abnormal phosphorylation of tau is a feature of Alzheimer's disease (AD), which develops prematurely in Down syndrome (DS) patients. Cognitive impairment is also recognized as a clinical characteristic of schizophrenia, which does not appear to be associated with tau-aggregate formation. Several kinases can phosphorylate tau in cell-free assays. Here we show increased activity of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) (including ERK½, SAPKs and p38) in post mortem AD and DS brains, which could not be accounted for by expression changes. In contrast, glycogen synthase kinase-3 activity (GSK-3αβ) was reduced significantly. Examination of tau in AD and DS using antibodies selective for MAPK phosphorylation sites showed increased immunoreactivity. In addition, phosphorylation of S 1 9 9 , reportedly a selective substrate for cyclin-dependent kinase-5 (cdk5) or GSK-3αβ was only observed in AD samples, which showed a concomitant increase in the expression of p25, the enhancing cofactor for cdk5 activity. However, in schizophrenia brain, MAPK-phosphorylated tau was unchanged compared to matched controls, despite similar expression levels to those in AD. The activities of the MAPKs and GSK-3αβ were also unchanged. These data demonstrate that in AD and DS, enhanced MAPK activity, which has an established role in regulating neuronal plasticity and survival, can account for irregular tau phosphorylation, and that the molecular processes involved in these neurodegenerative disorders are distinct from those in schizophrenia. These data also question the significance of GSK-3αβ, as much previous work carried out in vitro has placed this kinase as a favoured candidate for involvement in the pathological phosphorylation of tau.
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