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J Alzheimers Dis. 2016;49(4):1161-8. doi: 10.3233/JAD-150423.

Cycloheximide Treatment Causes a ZVAD-Sensitive Protease-Dependent Cleavage of Human Tau in Drosophila Cells.

Geng J1,2,3, Xia L1,2,3, Li W1,2,3, Zhao C1,2,3, Dou F1,2,3.

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State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning & IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research, College of Life Sciences, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China.
Key Laboratory of Cell Proliferation and Regulation Biology, Ministry of Education, College of Life Sciences, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China.
Center for Collaboration and Innovation in Brain and Learning Sciences, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China.


Neurofibrillary tangles are the main pathological feature of Alzheimer's disease. Insoluble tau protein is the major component of neurofibrillary tangles. Defects in the tau protein degradation pathway in neurons can lead to the accumulation of tau and its subsequent aggregation. Currently, contradictory results on the tau degradation pathway have been reported by different groups. This discrepancy is most likely due to different cell lines and methods used in those studies. In this study, we found that cycloheximide treatment induced mild activation of a ZVAD-sensitive protease in Drosophila Kc cells, resulting in cleavage of tau at its C-terminus; this cleavage could generate misleading tau protein degradation pattern results depending on the antibodies used in the assay. Because cycloheximide is a broadly used chemical reagent for the study of protein degradation, the unexpected artificial effect we observed here indicates that cycloheximide is not suitable for the study of tau degradation. Other methods, such as inducible expression systems and pulse-chase assays, may be more appropriate for studying tau degradation under physiological conditions.


Caspase; Drosophila Kc cells; ZVAD-sensitive protease; cycloheximide; degradation; human tau; truncation

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