Biochimica et biophysica acta

Axotrophin/MARCH7 acts as an E3 ubiquitin ligase and ubiquitinates tau protein in vitro impairing microtubule binding.

PMID 24905733


Tau is the major microtubule-associated protein in neurons involved in microtubule stabilization in the axonal compartment. Changes in tau gene expression, alternative splicing and posttranslational modification regulate tau function and in tauopathies can result in tau mislocalization and dysfunction, causing tau aggregation and cell death. To uncover proteins involved in the development of tauopathies, a yeast two-hybrid system was used to screen for tau-interacting proteins. We show that axotrophin/MARCH7, a RING-variant domain containing protein with similarity to E3 ubiquitin ligases interacts with tau. We defined the tau binding domain to amino acids 552-682 of axotrophin comprising the RING-variant domain. Co-immunoprecipitation and co-localization confirmed the specificity of the interaction. Intracellular localization of axotrophin is determined by an N-terminal nuclear targeting signal and a C-terminal nuclear export signal. In AD brain nuclear localization is lost and axotrophin is rather associated with neurofibrillary tangles. We find here that tau becomes mono-ubiquitinated by recombinant tau-interacting RING-variant domain, which diminishes its microtubule-binding. In vitro ubiquitination of four-repeat tau results in incorporation of up to four ubiquitin molecules compared to two molecules in three-repeat tau. In summary, we present a novel tau modification occurring preferentially on 4-repeat tau protein which modifies microtubule-binding and may impact on the pathogenesis of tauopathies.