Tau and Tauopathies

Part of the Advances in Neurobiology book series (NEUROBIOL, volume 1)


Tau protein is a neuronal microtubule associated protein, which localizes primarily in the axon. It plays a major role in promoting microtubule assembly, stabilizing microtubules and maintaining the normal morphology of the neurons. Structurally tau is a heterogenous molecule due to several posttranslational modifications. Tauopathies are a group of disorders that are the consequence of abnormal tau phosphorylation, abnormal levels of tau, abnormal tau splicing, or mutations in the tau gene. These disorders are characterized not only by neuronal, but also oligodendroglial and astrocytic filamentous tau inclusions. Tauopathies are the commonest among the neurodegerative diseases with filamentous inclusions. Tauopathies include frontotemporal dementia, Parkinsonism plus syndromes, neuromuscular disorders, and certain genetic and metabolic syndromes. The occurrence of neurofibrillary tangles in a wide range of conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, initially led to the suggestion that tau deposition may be an incidental nonspecific finding associated with cell death or cellular dysfunction. Later the discovery of close to 20 different mutations in tau in frontotemporal dementia with Parkinsonism linked to chromosome-17 (FTDP-17) clearly showed that dysfunction of tau protein causes neurodegeneration and dementia. Among the tauopathies, the most studied is Alzheimer’s disease. Frontotemporal dementia, progressive supranuclear palsy, and corticobasal ganglionic degeneration are some of the other common tauopathies that have been extensively studied. Overlap of clinical and histopathological features occurs between various tauopathies. The role of CSF tau in the diagnosis of dementias is under investigation. The measures of total tau as well as species of phospho-tau detected by antibodies in CSF correlates best with a diagnosis of AD. The discovery of a tau transgenic mouse model has paved the way for testing various therapeutic models for targeting tau.


Tau Tauopathy Alzheimer’s disease Frontotemporal dementia Parkinsonism Exon Microtubule Structural Protein Phosphorylation 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurologyMedical College HospitalThiruvananthapuramIndia
  2. 2.Department of BiochemistrySree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST)ThiruvananthapuramIndia
  3. 3.Cognition and Behavioural Neurology Section (CBNC), Department of NeurologySree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST)ThiruvananthapuramIndia

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