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Pharmacological research

The characterization of microtubule-stabilizing drugs as possible therapeutic agents for Alzheimer's disease and related tauopathies.


PMID 21163349

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.

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