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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 May 9;97(10):5129-34.

Assembly of tau protein into Alzheimer paired helical filaments depends on a local sequence motif ((306)VQIVYK(311)) forming beta structure.

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  • 1Max Planck Unit for Structural Molecular Biology, Notkestrasse 85, 22607 Hamburg, Germany.


We have searched for a minimal interaction motif in tau protein that supports the aggregation into Alzheimer-like paired helical filaments. Digestion of the repeat domain with different proteases yields a GluC-induced fragment comprising 43 residues (termed PHF43), which represents the third repeat of tau plus some flanking residues. This fragment self assembles readily into thin filaments without a paired helical appearance, but these filaments are highly competent to nucleate bona fide PHFs from full-length tau. Probing the interactions of PHF43 with overlapping peptides derived from the full tau sequence yields a minimal hexapeptide interaction motif of (306)VQIVYK(311) at the beginning of the third internal repeat. This motif coincides with the highest predicted beta-structure potential in tau. CD and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy shows that PHF43 acquires pronounced beta structure in conditions of self assembly. Point mutations in the hexapeptide region by proline-scanning mutagenesis prevent the aggregation. The data indicate that PHF assembly is initiated by a short fragment containing the minimal interaction motif forming a local beta structure embedded in a largely random-coil protein.

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