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Combinatorial Tau pseudophosphorylation: markedly different regulatory effects on microtubule assembly and dynamic instability than the sum of the individual parts.

Kiriş, Erkan
Ventimiglia, D
Sargin, ME
Gaylord, MR
Altinok, A
Rose, K
Manjunath, BS
Jordan, MA
Wilson, L
Feinstein, SC
Tau is a multiply phosphorylated protein that is essential for the development and maintenance of the nervous system. Errors in Tau action are associated with Alzheimer disease and related dementias. A huge literature has led to the widely held notion that aberrant Tau hyperphosphorylation is central to these disorders. Unfortunately, our mechanistic understanding of the functional effects of combinatorial Tau phosphorylation remains minimal. Here, we generated four singly pseudophosphorylated Tau proteins (at Thr231, Ser262, Ser396, and Ser404) and four doubly pseudophosphorylated Tau proteins using the same sites. Each Tau preparation was assayed for its abilities to promote microtubule assembly and to regulate microtubule dynamic instability in vitro. All four singly pseudophosphorylated Tau proteins exhibited loss-of-function effects. In marked contrast to the expectation that doubly pseudophosphorylated Tau would be less functional than either of its corresponding singly pseudophosphorylated forms, all of the doubly pseudophosphorylated Tau proteins possessed enhanced microtubule assembly activity and were more potent at regulating dynamic instability than their compromised singly pseudophosphorylated counterparts. Thus, the effects of multiple pseudophosphorylations were not simply the sum of the effects of the constituent single pseudophosphorylations; rather, they were generally opposite to the effects of singly pseudophosphorylated Tau. Further, despite being pseudophosphorylated at different sites, the four singly pseduophosphorylated Tau proteins often functioned similarly, as did the four doubly pseudophosphorylated proteins. These data lead us to reassess the conventional view of combinatorial phosphorylation in normal and pathological Tau action. They may also be relevant to the issue of combinatorial phosphorylation as a general regulatory mechanism.