The microtubule (MT)–stabilizing protein tau disengages from MTs and forms intracellular inclusions known as neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer’s disease and related tauopathies. Reduced tau binding to MTs in tauopathies may contribute to neuronal dysfunction through decreased MT stabilization and disrupted axonal transport. Thus, the introduction of brain-penetrant MT-stabilizing compounds might normalize MT dynamics and axonal deficits in these disorders. We previously described a number of phenylpyrimidines and triazolopyrimidines (TPDs) that induce tubulin post-translational modifications indicative of MT stabilization. We now further characterize the biologic properties of these small molecules, and our results reveal that these compounds can be divided into two general classes based on the cellular response they evoke. One group composed of the phenylpyrimidines and several TPD examples showed a bell-shaped concentration-response effect on markers of MT stabilization in cellular assays. Moreover, these compounds induced proteasome-dependent degradation of α- and β-tubulin and caused altered MT morphology in both dividing cells and neuron cultures. In contrast, a second group comprising a subset of TPD molecules (TPD+) increased markers of stable MTs in a concentration-dependent manner in dividing cells and in neurons without affecting total tubulin levels or disrupting MT architecture. Moreover, an example TPD+ compound was shown to increase MTs in a neuron culture model with induced tau hyperphosphorylation and associated MT deficits. Several TPD+ compounds were shown to be both brain penetrant and orally bioavailable, and a TPD+ example increased MT stabilization in the mouse brain, making these compounds potential candidate therapeutics for neurodegenerative tauopathies such as Alzheimer’s disease.
- Received December 2, 2015.
- Accepted March 14, 2016.
This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health National Institute on Aging [Grant R01-AG044332] and in part by the Marian S. Ware Alzheimer Foundation.
- Copyright © 2016 by The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics