Binding of two zinc ions promotes liquid-liquid phase separation of Tau


  • Yatoui Dahbia
  • Tsvetkov Philipp
  • La Rocca Romain
  • Baksheeva Viktoriia
  • Allegro Diane
  • Breuzard Gilles
  • Ferracci Géraldine
  • Byrne Deborah
  • Devred François


  • Aggregation
  • Liquid liquid phase separation
  • Zinc
  • Tau protein
  • Zinc
  • Liquid-liquid phase separation
  • Aggregation


Tau is a naturally disordered microtubule associated protein which forms intraneuronal aggregates in several neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer disease (AD). It was reported that zinc interaction with tau protein can trigger its aggregation. Recently we identified three zinc binding sites located in the N-terminal part, repeat region and the C-terminal part of tau. Here we characterized zinc binding to each of three sites using isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) and determined the impact of each site on aggregation using dynamic light scattering (DLS) assays. First, we confirmed the presence of three zinc binding sites on tau and determined the thermodynamic parameters of binding of zinc to these sites. We found a high-affinity zinc binding site located in the repeat region of tau and two N-and C-terminus binding sites with a lower binding constant for zinc. Second, we showed that tau aggregation necessitates zinc binding to the high affinity site in the R2R3 region, while LLPS necessitates zinc binding to any two binding sites. Regarding the role of zinc ions in the aggregation of proteins in neurodegenerative diseases, these findings bring new insights to the understanding of the aggregation mechanism of tau protein induced by zinc.

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