The Journal of biological chemistry

Interaction of tau isoforms with Alzheimer's disease abnormally hyperphosphorylated tau and in vitro phosphorylation into the disease-like protein.

PMID 11495914


The microtubule-associated protein tau is a family of six isoforms that becomes abnormally hyperphosphorylated and accumulates in neurons undergoing neurodegeneration in the brains of patients with Alzheimer disease (AD). We investigated the isoform-specific interaction of normal tau with AD hyperphosphorylated tau (AD P-tau). We found that the binding of AD P-tau to normal human recombinant tau was tau4L > tau4S > tau4 and tau3L > tau3S > tau3, and that its binding to tau4L was greater than to tau3L. AD P-tau also inhibited the assembly of microtubules promoted by each tau isoform and caused disassembly when added to preassembled microtubules. This inhibition and depolymerization of microtubules by the AD P-tau corresponded directly to the degree of its interaction with the different tau isoforms. In vitro hyperphosphorylation of recombinant tau (P-tau) conferred AD P-tau-like characteristics. Like AD P-tau, P-tau interacted with and sequestered normal tau and inhibited microtubule assembly. These studies suggest that the AD P-tau interacts preferentially with the tau isoforms that have the amino-terminal inserts and four microtubule binding domain repeats and that hyperphosphorylation of tau appears to be sufficient to acquire AD P-tau characteristics. Thus, lack of amino-terminal inserts and extra microtubule binding domain repeat in fetal human brain might be protective from Alzheimer's neurofibrillary degeneration.