Microtubules are fundamental elements participating in many aspects of cell behavior and maintenance, yet the factors regulating microtubule behavior in vivo remain poorly understood. Employing the nerve growth factor (NGF)-responsive cell line, PC12, we have used sense and antisense DNA transfection strategies to examine the role of the microtubule-associated protein (MAP) tau in several aspects of neuronal cell behavior. Stable transfectants over-expressing tau accumulate more microtubule mass and extend neurites more rapidly than control cells, while transfectants under-expressing tau exhibit reduced microtubule levels and slower neurite outgrowth. Further, tau over-expressing cells are markedly more resistant to nocodazole-induced neuritic degeneration when compared to wild-type or tau under-expressing cells. These observations provide direct support for the model that tau is capable of influencing: (i) net microtubule assembly, (ii) the rate of neurite elongation and (iii) neuritic stability. These capabilities suggest that tau plays crucial roles in the development and maintenance of neuronal cells.
- © 1994 by Company of Biologists