Stabilization of the cyclin-dependent kinase 5 activator, p35, by paclitaxel decreases β-amyloid toxicity in cortical neurons


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Rick T. Dobrowsky, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Kansas, 5064 Malott Hall, 1251 Wescoe Hall Dr, Lawrence, KS 66045, USA. E-mail:


One hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the formation of neurofibrillary tangles, aggregated paired helical filaments composed of hyperphosphorylated tau. Amyloid-β (Aβ) induces tau hyperphosphorylation, decreases microtubule (MT) stability and induces neuronal death. MT stabilizing agents have been proposed as potential therapeutics that may minimize Aβ toxicity and here we report that paclitaxel (taxol) prevents cell death induced by Aβ peptides, inhibits Aβ-induced activation of cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (cdk5) and decreases tau hyperphosphorylation. Taxol did not inhibit cdk5 directly but significantly blocked Aβ-induced calpain activation and decreased formation of the cdk5 activator, p25, from p35. Taxol specifically inhibited the Aβ-induced activation of the cytosolic cdk5-p25 complex, but not the membrane-associated cdk5-p35 complex. MT-stabilization was necessary for neuroprotection and inhibition of cdk5 but was not sufficient to prevent cell death induced by overexpression of p25. As taxol is not permeable to the blood–brain barrier, we assessed the potential of taxanes to attenuate Aβ toxicity in adult animals using a succinylated taxol analog (TX67) permeable to the blood–brain barrier. TX67, but not taxol, attenuated the magnitude of both basal and Aβ-induced cdk5 activation in acutely dissociated cortical cultures prepared from drug treated adult mice. These results suggest that MT-stabilizing agents may provide a therapeutic approach to decrease Aβ toxicity and neurofibrillary pathology in AD and other tauopathies.