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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Jun 7;91(12):5562-6.

Role of abnormally phosphorylated tau in the breakdown of microtubules in Alzheimer disease.

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  • 1New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, Staten Island 10314.


The microtubule assembly-promoting activity of different pools of tau protein isolated from Alzheimer disease (AD) and control brains and the effect of dephosphorylation on this activity were studied. Tau isolated from a 2.5% perchloric extract of AD brain had almost the same activity as that obtained from control brain, and this activity did not change significantly on dephosphorylation. Abnormally phosphorylated tau (AD P-tau) isolated from brain homogenate of AD patients had little activity, and upon dephosphorylation with alkaline phosphatase, its activity increased to approximately the same level as the acid-soluble tau. Addition of AD P-tau to a mixture of normal tau and tubulin inhibited microtubule assembly. AD P-tau bound to normal tau but not to tubulin. These studies suggest that the abnormal phosphorylation of tau might be responsible for the breakdown of microtubules in affected neurons in AD not only because the altered protein has little microtubule-promoting activity but also because it interacts with normal tau, making the latter unavailable for promoting the assembly of tubulin into microtubules.

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