NMR Investigation of the Interaction between the Neuronal Protein Tau and the Microtubules.


  • Sillen Alain
  • Barbier Pascale
  • Landrieu Isabelle
  • Lefebvre Sylvie
  • Wieruszeski Jean-Michel
  • Leroy Arnaud
  • Peyrot Vincent
  • Lippens Guy


Whereas the interaction between Tau and the microtubules has been studied in great detail both by macroscopic techniques (cosedimentation, cryo-electron microscopy, and fluorescence spectroscopy) using the full-length protein or by peptide mapping assays, no detailed view at the level of individual amino acids has been presented when using the full-length protein. Here, we present a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) study of the interaction between the full-length neuronal protein Tau and paclitaxel-stabilized microtubules (MTs). As signal disappearance in the heteronuclear 1H-15N correlation spectra of isotope-labeled Tau in complex with MTs is due to direct association of the corresponding residue with the solid-like MT wall, we can map directly the fragment in interaction with the MT surface, and obtain a molecular picture of the precise interaction zones. The N-terminal region projects from the microtubule surface, and the lack of chemical shift variations when compared with free Tau proves that this region can regulate microtubular separation without adopting a stable conformation. Amino acids in the four microtubule binding repeats (MTBRs) lose all of their intensity, underscoring their immobilization upon binding to the MTs. The same loss of NMR intensity was observed for the proline-rich region starting at Ser214, underscoring its importance in the Tau:MT interaction. Fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) experiments were used to obtain thermodynamic binding parameters, and led to the conclusion that the NMR defined fragment indeed is the major player in the interaction. When the same Ser214 is phosphorylated by the PKA kinase, the Tau:MT interaction strength decreases by 2 orders of magnitude, but the proline-rich region including the phospho-Ser214 does not gain sufficient mobility in the complex to make it observable by NMR spectroscopy. The presence of an intramolecular disulfide bridge, on the contrary, does lead to a partial detachment of the C-terminus of Tau, and decreases significantly the overloading of Tau on the MT surface.

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