Glucocorticoid-mediated activation of GSK3β promotes tau phosphorylation and impairs memory in type 2 diabetes

Aditi Dey, Shuai Hao, Marlena Wosiski-Kuhn, Alexis M. Stranahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Type 2 diabetes is increasingly recognized as a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, but the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. Hyperphosphorylation of the microtubule-associated protein tau has been reported in rodent models of diabetes, including db/db mice, which exhibit insulin resistance and chronically elevated glucocorticoids due to leptin receptor insufficiency. In this report, we investigated endocrine mechanisms for hippocampal tau phosphorylation in db/db and wild-type mice. By separately manipulating peripheral and intrahippocampal corticosterone levels, we determined that hippocampal corticosteroid exposure promotes tau phosphorylation and activates glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β). Subsequent experiments in hippocampal slice preparations revealed evidence for a nongenomic interaction between glucocorticoids and GSK3β. To examine whether GSK3β activation mediates tau phosphorylation and impairs memory in diabetes, db/db and wild-type mice received intrahippocampal infusions of TDZD-8, a non-ATP competitive thiadiazolidinone inhibitor of GSK3β. Intrahippocampal TDZD-8 blocked tau hyperphosphorylation and normalized hippocampus-dependent memory in db/db mice, suggesting that pathological synergy between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease may involve glucocorticoid-mediated activation of GSK3β.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-83
Number of pages9
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • Corticosterone
  • Diabetes
  • Hippocampus
  • Insulin resistance
  • Learning and memory
  • Tau phosphorylation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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