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PLoS One. 2014 Feb 25;9(2):e89796. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089796. eCollection 2014.

The homologous carboxyl-terminal domains of microtubule-associated protein 2 and TAU induce neuronal dysfunction and have differential fates in the evolution of neurofibrillary tangles.

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Department of Neuropathology, Faculty of Life and Medical Sciences, Doshisha University, Kyotanabe-shi, Kyoto, Japan.
Department of Neuropathology, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo, Japan.
Department of Physiology, Tokyo Women's Medical University School of Medicine, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan.


Microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2) and Tau are abundant neuronal microtubule-associated proteins. Both proteins have highly homologous carboxyl-terminal sequences that function as microtubule-binding domains. Whereas Tau is widely accepted as a pathoetiological factor in human tauopathies, including Alzheimer's disease (AD), it is not known whether there is a relationship between MAP2 and tauopathy. To better understand the pathological roles of MAP2 and Tau, we compared their behaviors in transgenic Caenorhabditis elegans in which MAP2 or Tau was expressed pan-neuronally. Both MAP2 and Tau elicited severe neuronal dysfunction and neuritic abnormalities, despite the absence of detergent-insoluble aggregates in worm neurons. Biochemical analysis revealed that the expressed MAP2 or Tau in worms was highly phosphorylated and did not bind to microtubules. Newly raised antibodies to MAP2 that effectively distinguished between the highly homologous carboxyl-terminal sequences of MAP2 and Tau showed that MAP2 was not involved in the growth process of neurofibrillary tangles in the AD brain. These results indicate that Tau and MAP2 have different fates in the inclusion formation and raise the possibility that MAP2 plays a significant role in neurotoxicity in the AD brain despite the absence of MAP2-aggregates.

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