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J Biol Chem. 1994 Feb 11;269(6):4373-80.

Casein kinase II preferentially phosphorylates human tau isoforms containing an amino-terminal insert. Identification of threonine 39 as the primary phosphate acceptor.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham 35294.


The in vitro phosphorylation of the microtubule-associated protein tau by casein kinase II was studied. Purified human brain tau was phosphorylated by casein kinase II to a stoichiometry of 0.7 mol of 32P/mol of tau. Individual recombinant human tau isoforms were phosphorylated to stoichiometries ranging from 0.2 to 0.8 mol of 32P/mol of tau. Casein kinase II catalyzed a 4-fold greater incorporation of phosphate into the tau isoform containing a 58-amino acid insert near its amino terminus (T4L) than the isoforms without the 58-amino acid insert (T3 and T4). Phosphopeptide mapping of casein kinase II phosphorylated human tau and recombinant tau isoforms suggested that the isoforms containing an amino-terminal insert constitute the major substrates for casein kinase II within the tau family. The sites of phosphorylation on T4L were identified by digesting phosphorylated T4L with the protease Asp-N, separating the peptides by reversed phase high performance liquid chromatography, and analyzing the isolated peptides by liquid-secondary ion mass spectrometry and solid-phase amino-terminal sequencing. Thr39 was identified as the predominant phosphorylation site, which is located 5 residues from the amino-terminal insert in T4L. Phosphopeptide mapping of tau isolated from LA-N-5 neuroblastoma cells indicates that Thr39 is phosphorylated in situ. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of a differential phosphorylation of the human tau isoforms, with the isoforms containing the acidic amino-terminal insert being the preferred substrates of casein kinase II.

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