The protein, called Akt is known to increase cancer cell survival and has become a target in the development of some cancer-inhibitor drugs.
"This study describes for the first time a new function for the cancer-related protein Akt - one that may help promote Alzheimer's disease pathology," said lead author Chad Dickey, PhD, assistant professor of molecular pharmacology and physiology at USF.
Tau protein forms bundles of tangled nerve cell fibres in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease.
"We found that increased amounts of Akt may prevent the removal of abnormal proteins, such as tau, causing these proteins to accumulate and disrupt the balance within the cells," he added.
Dickey suggests that Akt-induced imbalance might result in cancer cells continuing to divide uncontrollably and is likely to have a different effect in Alzheimer's disease.
"The nerve cells may try to divide in the brain, but cannot, and therefore die," he said.
"Thus regulating levels of Akt, rather than its activity, may be beneficial to sufferers of diseases of aging, such as cancer, Alzheimer's and even diabetes," he added.
The study was published online Feb. 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Researchers at the University of South Florida and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville found out that Alzheimer's disease is triggered by a protein that is responsible for the development of cancer too.