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The genetic mechanisms that regulate neurodegeneration are only poorly understood. We show that the loss of one allele of the p53 family member, p73, makes mice susceptible to neurodegeneration as a consequence of aging or Alzheimer's disease (AD). Behavioral analyses demonstrated that old, but not young, p73+/- mice displayed reduced motor and cognitive function, CNS atrophy, and neuronal degeneration. Unexpectedly, brains of aged p73+/- mice demonstrated dramatic accumulations of phospho-tau (P-tau)-positive filaments. Moreover, when crossed to a mouse model of AD expressing a mutant amyloid precursor protein, brains of these mice showed neuronal degeneration and early and robust formation of tangle-like structures containing P-tau. The increase in P-tau was likely mediated by JNK; in p73+/- neurons, the activity of the p73 target JNK was enhanced, and JNK regulated P-tau levels. Thus, p73 is essential for preventing neurodegeneration, and haploinsufficiency for p73 may be a susceptibility factor for AD and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





708 - 721


Age Factors, Aging, Alzheimer Disease, Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor, Analysis of Variance, Animals, Behavior, Animal, Cell Cycle, Cells, Cultured, DNA-Binding Proteins, Disease Models, Animal, Embryo, Mammalian, Exploratory Behavior, Flow Cytometry, Galactosides, MAP Kinase Kinase 4, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Maze Learning, Mice, Mice, Transgenic, Microglia, Mutation, Neurodegenerative Diseases, Nuclear Proteins, Phosphopyruvate Hydratase, Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases, Tumor Protein p73, Tumor Suppressor Proteins, tau Proteins