Overactivation of glycogen synthase kinase-3 by inhibition of phosphoinositol-3 kinase and protein kinase C leads to hyperphosphorylation of tau and impairment of spatial memory

Shi Jie Liu, Ai Hong Zhang, Hong Lian Li, Qun Wang, Heng Mei Deng, William J. Netzer, Huaxi Xu, Jian Zhi Wang

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213 Citations (Scopus)


Neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) consisting of the hyperphosphorylated microtubule-associated protein tau are a defining pathological characteristic of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Hyperphosphorylation of tau is hypothesized to impair the microtubule stabilizing function of tau, leading to the formation of paired helical filaments and neuronal death. Glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) has been shown to be one of several kinases that mediate tau hyperphosphorylation in vitro. However, molecular mechanisms underlying overactivation of GSK-3 and its potential linkage to AD-like pathologies in vivo remain unclear. Here, we demonstrate that injection of wortmannin (a specific inhibitor of phosphoinositol-3 kinase) or GF-109203X (a specific inhibitor of protein kinase C) into the left ventricle of rat brains leads to overactivation of GSK-3, hyperphosphorylation of tau at Ser 396/404/199/202 and, most significantly, impaired spatial memory. The effects of wortmannin and GF-109203X are additive. Significantly, specific inhibition of GSK-3 activity by LiCI prevents hyperphosphorylation of tau, and spatial memory impairment resulting from PI3K and PKC inhibition. These results indicate that in vivo inhibition of phosphoinositol-3 kinase and protein kinase C results in overactivation of GSK-3 and tau hyperphosphorylation and support a direct role of GSK-3 in the formation of AD-like cognitive deficits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1333-1344
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Glycogen synthase kinase-3
  • Phosphoinositol-3 kinase
  • Protein kinase C
  • Spatial memory
  • Tau

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