The expression of familial Alzheimer's disease mutants of presenilin-1 (PS1) proteins has been observed to induce cell death in cellular systems. To investigate how this phenomenon might be associated to alterations of the microtubule network, we have studied the effect of wild-type and mutant (C263R, P264L and delta9) PS1 proteins expression on the formation of microtubule-dependent processes outgrowth and the association of PS1 to the insoluble cytoskeletal fraction in a cell line expressing the tau microtubule-associated protein. Expression of wild-type and mutant PS1 was associated with increased cell death, most marked for the P264L and delta9 mutants. The three PS1 mutants induced a significant reduction of the length of cell processes. These effects were not associated to a change in tau phosphorylation. However, the mutant PS1 proteins increased the proportion of insoluble tau in the cytoskeletal fraction and they were concentrated in the same fraction. These results suggest that PS1 proteins interact with the microtubule network, affect its organization and that this phenomenon, more marked for the PS1 mutants, might play a role in the cell dysfunction induced by mutant PS1 proteins. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.