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Biochemistry. 2009 Dec 29;48(51):12290-7. doi: 10.1021/bi901304u.

Tau 6D and 6P isoforms inhibit polymerization of full-length tau in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, 60611, USA.


Alzheimer's disease and other tauopathies are characterized by the intracellular accumulation of insoluble filaments of the microtubule-associated protein tau. The six canonical tau isoforms in the adult brain consist of an N-terminal "projection" domain followed by a proline-rich region, a microtubule-binding repeat region, and a C-terminal tail. However, alternative splicing in exon 6 produces an additional set of tau isoforms, termed 6D and 6P, which contain only the N-terminus and part of the proline-rich region. We have previously shown that constructs representing N-terminal fragments of tau, which resemble the naturally occurring 6P and 6D isoforms, inhibit polymerization of the full-length protein in an in vitro filament formation assay and traced the inhibitory activity to amino acids 18-42. Here we report that 6P and 6D tau isoforms inhibit polymerization of full-length tau (hTau40) in a similar manner, likely by stabilizing full-length tau in a soluble conformation. The absence of exons 2 and 3 decreased the effectiveness of the 6D isoforms but not the 6P variants or the N-terminal tau fragments from our previous study, indicating that the 18-42 region is not the sole determinant of inhibitory ability. Finally, this paper demonstrates that inhibition is blocked by pseudophosphorylation of tyrosines 18 and 29, providing a potential link between tyrosine phosphorylation and disease progression. Taken together, these results indicate that the 6P/6D isoforms are potential endogenous inhibitors of tau filament formation and suggest a mechanism by which this ability may be disrupted in disease.

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