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PLoS One. 2013 Oct 2;8(10):e76657. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076657. eCollection 2013.

Protein disulfide isomerase interacts with tau protein and inhibits its fibrillization.

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State Key Laboratory of Virology, College of Life Sciences, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China.



Tau protein is implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders such as tauopathies including Alzheimer disease, and Tau fibrillization is thought to be related to neuronal toxicity. Physiological inhibitors of Tau fibrillization hold promise for developing new strategies for treatment of Alzheimer disease. Because protein disulfide isomerase (PDI) is both an enzyme and a chaperone, and implicated in neuroprotection against Alzheimer disease, we want to know whether PDI can prevent Tau fibrillization. In this study, we have investigated the interaction between PDI and Tau protein and the effect of PDI on Tau fibrillization.


As evidenced by co-immunoprecipitation and confocal laser scanning microscopy, human PDI interacts and co-locates with some endogenous human Tau on the endoplasmic reticulum of undifferentiated SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells. The results from isothermal titration calorimetry show that one full-length human PDI binds to one full-length human Tau (or human Tau fragment Tau244-372) monomer with moderate, micromolar affinity at physiological pH and near physiological ionic strength. As revealed by thioflavin T binding assays, Sarkosyl-insoluble SDS-PAGE, and transmission electron microscopy, full-length human PDI remarkably inhibits both steps of nucleation and elongation of Tau244-372 fibrillization in a concentration-dependent manner. Furthermore, we find that two molecules of the a-domain of human PDI interact with one Tau244-372 molecule with sub-micromolar affinity, and inhibit both steps of nucleation and elongation of Tau244-372 fibrillization more strongly than full-length human PDI.


We demonstrate for the first time that human PDI binds to Tau protein mainly through its thioredoxin-like catalytic domain a, forming a 1∶1 complex and preventing Tau misfolding. Our findings suggest that PDI could act as a physiological inhibitor of Tau fibrillization, and have applications for developing novel strategies for treatment and early diagnosis of Alzheimer disease.

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