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Brain Res. 1999 Aug 28;839(2):253-62.

Sequence of neurodegeneration and accumulation of phosphorylated tau in cultured neurons after okadaic acid treatment.

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Department of Psychobiology, University of California, Irvine 92697-4540, USA.


Within neurofibrillary tangles and dystrophic neurites of Alzheimer's disease (AD), the cytoskeletal protein tau is abnormally hyperphosphorylated. In the present study, we examined the effect of okadaic acid (OA), a protein phosphatase inhibitor, in rat cultured neurons. Low concentrations of OA induce degeneration of neurites, rounding of cell bodies, detachment from the substratum, and eventual neuronal death. During OA-induced degeneration, SMI-31 immunoreactivity became punctate in neurites at 6 h after OA treatment, and over time, accumulated in cell bodies and dystrophic neurites. Hyperphosphorylation of tau and marked loss of MAP-2-positive dendrites occurred after 6 h of treatment with OA. Thereafter, AT-8 and PHF-1 immunoreactivity accumulated in cell bodies and subsequently appeared in distal axon-like neurites. These results demonstrate that OA treatment induced hyperphosphorylation of tau and preferential dendritic damage, with subsequent accumulation of phosphorylated tau in cell bodies and dystrophic axon-like neurites. OA-induced neurodegeneration may provide a useful model to study AD.

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