Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Biol Chem. 2005 Feb 18;280(7):5145-53. Epub 2004 Nov 12.

Proteolysis of non-phosphorylated and phosphorylated tau by thrombin.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Kinsmen Laboratory of Neurological Research, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z3, Canada.


The microtubule-associated protein tau aggregates intracellularly by unknown mechanisms in Alzheimer's disease and other tauopathies. A contributing factor may be a failure to break down free cytosolic tau, thus creating a surplus for aggregation, although the proteases that degrade tau in brain remain unknown. To address this issue, we prepared cytosolic fractions from five normal human brains and from perfused rat brains and incubated them with or without protease inhibitors. D-Phenylalanyl-L-prolylarginyl chloromethyl ketone, a thrombin-specific inhibitor, prevented tau breakdown in these fractions, suggesting that thrombin is a brain protease that processes tau. We next exposed human recombinant tau to purified human thrombin and analyzed the fragments by N-terminal sequencing. We found that thrombin proteolyzed tau at multiple arginine and lysine sites. These include Arg(155)-Gly(156), Arg(209)-Ser(210), Arg(230)-Thr(231), Lys(257)-Ser(258), and Lys(340)-Ser(341) (numbering according to the longest human tau isoform). Temporally, the initial cleavage occurred at the Arg(155)-Gly(156) bond. Proteolysis of the resultant C-terminal tau fragment then proceeded bidirectionally. When tau was phosphorylated by glycogen synthase kinase-3beta, most of these proteolytic processes were inhibited, except for the first cleavage at the Arg(155)-Gly(156) bond. Furthermore, paired helical filament tau prepared from Alzheimer's disease brain was more resistant to thrombin proteolysis than following dephosphorylation by alkaline phosphatase. The results suggest a possible role for thrombin in proteolysis of tau under physiological and/or pathological conditions in human brains. They are consistent with the hypothesis that phosphorylation of tau inhibits proteolysis by thrombin or other endogenous proteases, leading to aggregation of tau into insoluble fibrils.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk