[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neurodegenerative tauopathies, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), are characterized by insoluble deposits of hyperphosphorylated tau protein within brain neurons. Increased phosphorylation and decreased solubility has been proposed to diminish normal tau stabilization of microtubules (MTs), thereby leading to neuronal dysfunction. Earlier studies have provided evidence that small molecule MT-stabilizing drugs that are used in the treatment of cancer may have utility in the treatment of tauopathies. However, it has not been established whether treatment with a small molecule MT-stabilizing compound will provide benefit in a transgenic model with pre-existing tau pathology, as would be seen in human patients with clinical symptoms. Accordingly, we describe here an interventional study of the brain-penetrant MT-stabilizing agent, epothilone D (EpoD), in aged PS19 mice with existing tau pathology and related behavioral deficits. EpoD treatment reduced axonal dystrophy and increased axonal MT density in the aged PS19 mice, which led to improved fast axonal transport and cognitive performance. Moreover, the EpoD-treated PS19 mice had less forebrain tau pathology and increased hippocampal neuronal integrity, with no dose-limiting side effects. These data reveal that brain-penetrant MT-stabilizing drugs hold promise for the treatment of AD and related tauopathies, and that EpoD could be a candidate for clinical testing.
Journal of Neuroscience 03/2012; 32(11):3601-11. · 6.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Tau, a protein that is enriched in neurons of the central nervous system (CNS), is thought to play a critical role in the stabilization of microtubules (MTs). Several neurodegenerative disorders referred to as tauopathies, including Alzheimer's disease and certain types of frontotemporal lobar degeneration, are characterized by the intracellular accumulation of hyperphosphorylated tau fibrils. Tau deposition into insoluble aggregates is believed to result in a loss of tau function that leads to MT destabilization, and this could cause neurodegeneration as intact MTs are required for axonal transport and normal neuron function. This tau loss-of-function hypothesis has been validated in a tau transgenic mouse model with spinal cord tau inclusions, where the MT-stabilizing agent, paclitaxel, increased spinal nerve MT density and improved motor function after drug absorption at neuromuscular junctions. Unfortunately, paclitaxel is a P-glycoprotein substrate and has poor blood-brain barrier permeability, making it unsuitable for the treatment of human tauopathies. We therefore examined several MT-stabilizing compounds from the taxane and epothilone natural product families to assess their membrane permeability and to determine whether they act as substrates or inhibitors of P-glycoprotein. Moreover, we compared brain and plasma levels of the compounds after administration to mice. Finally, we assessed whether brain-penetrant compounds could stabilize mouse CNS MTs. We found that several epothilones have significantly greater brain penetration than the taxanes. Furthermore, certain epothilones cause an increase in CNS MT stabilization, with epothilone D demonstrating a favorable pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profile which suggests this agent merits further study as a potential tauopathy drug candidate.
Pharmacological Research 04/2011; 63(4):341-51. · 4.35 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neurons in the brains of those with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and many frontotemporal dementias (FTDs) contain neurofibrillary tangles comprised of hyperphosphorylated tau protein. Tau normally stabilizes microtubules (MTs), and tau misfolding could lead to a loss of this function with consequent MT destabilization and neuronal dysfunction. Accordingly, a possible therapeutic strategy for AD and related "tauopathies" is treatment with a MT-stabilizing anti-cancer drug such as paclitaxel. However, paclitaxel and related taxanes have poor blood-brain barrier permeability and thus are unsuitable for diseases of the brain. We demonstrate here that the MT-stabilizing agent, epothilone D (EpoD), is brain-penetrant and we subsequently evaluated whether EpoD can compensate for tau loss-of-function in PS19 tau transgenic mice that develop forebrain tau inclusions, axonal degeneration and MT deficits. Treatment of 3-month-old male PS19 mice with low doses of EpoD once weekly for a 3 month period significantly improved CNS MT density and axonal integrity without inducing notable side-effects. Moreover, EpoD treatment reduced cognitive deficits that were observed in the PS19 mice. These results suggest that certain brain-penetrant MT-stabilizing agents might provide a viable therapeutic strategy for the treatment of AD and FTDs.
Journal of Neuroscience 10/2010; 30(41):13861-6. · 6.91 Impact Factor