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Curr Alzheimer Res. 2011 Sep;8(6):678-85.

Novel drugs affecting tau behavior in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and tauopathies.

Author information

1
Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Neurosciences, University of Chile & International Center for Biomedicine, Edificio Milenio, Las Encinas 3370, Ñuñoa, Santiago, Chile. icc@manquehue.net

Abstract

The anomalous aggregation of proteins into pathological filaments is a common feature of a many human diseases, often related to aging. In this context, neurodegenerative pathologies such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) account for a major part of these protein misfolding diseases. AD is characterized by pathological aggregation of two proteins, tau and Aβ-amyloid. The intracellular neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) and neuropil threads consists of filaments of the modified microtubule-associated protein tau, while extracellular amyloid plaques consists of filaments of Aβ-peptide. It is noteworthy that tau oligomers with a prefilamentous structure appear to play a role at early stages of AD and tauopathies, but also in asymptomatic patients with Braak-stage I neuropathology, where clinical symptoms of AD and NFTs in frontal cortex are absent. This suggests that an increase in tau oligomers levels occurs before individuals manifest clinical symptoms of AD. NFTs are one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer disease and other tauphaties. These aggregates are thought to be toxic to neurons, either by causing some neurotoxic signalling defects or by obstructing the cell function. Factors contributing to accumulation of tau aggregates include the increased rate of protein misfolding, generation of amyloidogenic oligomers, underactivity of repair systems such as chaperones and ubiquitin-proteasome system, or a failure of energy supply and antioxidant defense mechanisms. There is not clear evidence if the aggregated tau or oligomers cause cellular damage, but on the basis of the emergent need to have an early and effective treatment, lowering the production or removal of these aggregates appears as a pathway toward alleviating the disease. In the context of some of most relevant reports, we analyze why tau protein seems to be an interesting target for AD treatment, and the importance to understand the pathways of tau. aggregation. This knowledge will allow us to identify and optimize potential inhibitors that interact with aggregated forms of tau and hyperphosphorylated tau before the formation of the NFTs, offering a possible therapeutic route for AD treatment.

PMID:
21605038
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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