Structural microtubule associated protein Tau is found in high amount in axons and is involved in several neurodegenerative diseases. Although many studies have highlighted the toxicity of an excess of Tau in neurons, the in vivo understanding of the endogenous role of Tau in axon morphology and physiology is poor. Indeed, knock-out mice display no strong cytoskeleton or axonal transport phenotype, probably because of some important functional redundancy with other microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs). Here, we took advantage of the model organism Drosophila
, which genome contains only one homologue of the Tau/MAP2/MAP4 family to decipher (endogenous) Tau functions. We found that Tau depletion leads to a decrease in microtubule number and microtubule density within axons, while Tau excess leads to the opposite phenotypes. Analysis of vesicular transport in tau
mutants showed altered mobility of vesicles, but no change in the total amount of putatively mobile vesicles, whereas both aspects were affected when Tau was overexpressed. In conclusion, we show that loss of Tau in tau
mutants not only leads to a decrease in axonal microtubule density, but also impairs axonal vesicular transport, albeit to a lesser extent compared to the effects of an excess of Tau.
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