Proteasomal Stimulation by MK886 and Its Derivatives Can Rescue Tau-Induced Neurite Pathology

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Proteasomal degradation of intrinsically disordered proteins, such as tau, is a critical component of proteostasis in both aging and neurodegenerative diseases. In this study, we investigated proteasomal activation by MK886 (MK). We previously identified MK as a lead compound capable of modulating tau oligomerization in a cellular FRET assay and rescuing P301L tau-induced cytotoxicity. We first confirmed robust proteasomal activation by MK using 20S proteasomal assays and a cellular proteasomal tau-GFP cleavage assay. We then show that MK treatment can significantly rescue tau-induced neurite pathology in differentiated SHSY5Y neurospheres. Due to this compelling result, we designed a series of seven MK analogs to determine if proteasomal activity is sensitive to structural permutations. Using the proteasome as the primary MOA, we examined tau aggregation, neurite outgrowth, inflammation, and autophagy assays to identify two essential substituents of MK that are required for compound activity: (1) removal of the N-chlorobenzyl group from MK negated both proteasomal and autophagic activity and reduced neurite outgrowth; and (2) removal of the indole-5-isopropyl group significantly improved neurite outgrowth and autophagy activity but reduced its anti-inflammatory capacity. Overall, our results suggest that the combination of proteasomal/autophagic stimulation and anti-inflammatory properties of MK and its derivatives can decrease tau-tau interactions and help rebalance dysfunctional proteostasis. Further development of MK to optimize its proteasomal, autophagic, and anti-inflammatory targets may lead to a novel therapeutic that would be beneficial in aging and neurodegenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6133-6144
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular neurobiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Drug discovery
  • FRET
  • Neurite outgrowth
  • Proteasome
  • Proteostasis
  • Tau

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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