GSK-3β-induced Tau pathology drives hippocampal neuronal cell death in Huntington's disease: involvement of astrocyte-neuron interactions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β) has emerged as a critical factor in several pathways involved in hippocampal neuronal maintenance and function. In Huntington's disease (HD), there are early hippocampal deficits both in patients and transgenic mouse models, which prompted us to investigate whether disease-specific changes in GSK-3β expression may underlie these abnormalities. Thirty-three postmortem hippocampal samples from HD patients (neuropathological grades 2-4) and age- and sex-matched normal control cases were analyzed using real-time quantitative reverse transcription PCRs (qPCRs) and immunohistochemistry. In vitro and in vivo studies looking at hippocampal pathology and GSK-3β were also undertaken in transgenic R6/2 and wild-type mice. We identified a disease and stage-dependent upregulation of GSK-3β mRNA and protein levels in the HD hippocampus, with the active isoform pGSK-3β-Tyr(216) being strongly expressed in dentate gyrus (DG) neurons and astrocytes at a time when phosphorylation of Tau at the AT8 epitope was also present in these same neurons. This upregulation of pGSK-3β-Tyr(216) was also found in the R6/2 hippocampus in vivo and linked to the increased vulnerability of primary hippocampal neurons in vitro. In addition, the increased expression of GSK-3β in the astrocytes of R6/2 mice appeared to be the main driver of Tau phosphorylation and caspase3 activation-induced neuronal death, at least in part via an exacerbated production of major proinflammatory mediators. This stage-dependent overactivation of GSK-3β in HD-affected hippocampal neurons and astrocytes therefore points to GSK-3β as being a critical factor in the pathological development of this condition. As such, therapeutic targeting of this pathway may help ameliorate neuronal dysfunction in HD.


  • F L'Episcopo
  • J Drouin-Ouellet
  • C Tirolo
  • A Pulvirenti
  • R Giugno
  • N Testa
  • S Caniglia
  • M F Serapide
  • G Cisbani
  • R A Barker
  • F Cicchetti
  • B Marchetti
External organisations
  • University of Cambridge
  • OASI Institute for Research and Care on Mental Retardation and Brain Aging (IRCCS)
  • University of Catania
  • Centre Hospitalier de l'Universite Laval (CHUL)
  • Laval University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Neurosciences


  • Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2206
Pages (from-to)1-14
JournalCell Death and Disease
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Apr 28
Publication categoryResearch