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FEBS Lett. 1997 Jul 14;411(2-3):183-8.

Lithium inhibits Alzheimer's disease-like tau protein phosphorylation in neurons.

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Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain.


In Alzheimer's disease, tau protein becomes hyperphosporylated, which can contribute to neuronal degeneration. However, the implicated protein kinases are still unknown. Now we report that lithium (an inhibitor of glycogen synthase kinase-3) causes tau dephosphorylation at the sites recognized by antibodies Tau-1 and PHF-1 both in cultured neurons and in vivo in rat brain. This is consistent with a major role for glycogen synthase kinase-3 in modifying proline-directed sites on tau protein within living neurons under physiological conditions. Lithium also blocks the Alzheimer's disease-like proline-directed hyperphosphorylation of tau protein which is observed in neurons treated with a phosphatase inhibitor. These data raise the possibility of using lithium to prevent tau hyperphosphorylation in Alzheimer's disease.

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