The aggregation of the intrinsically disordered tau protein into highly ordered β-sheet-rich fibrils is implicated in the pathogenesis of a range of neurodegenerative disorders. The mechanism of tau fibrillogenesis remains unresolved, particularly early events that trigger the misfolding and assembly of the otherwise soluble and stable tau. We investigated the role the lipid membrane plays in modulating the aggregation of three tau variants, the largest isoform hTau40, the truncated construct K18, and a hyperphosphorylation-mimicking mutant hTau40/3Epi. Despite being charged and soluble, the tau proteins were also highly surface active and favorably interacted with anionic lipid monolayers at the air/water interface. Membrane binding of tau also led to the formation of a macroscopic, gelatinous layer at the air/water interface, possibly related to tau phase separation. At the molecular level, tau assembled into oligomers composed of ~ 40 proteins misfolded in a β-sheet conformation at the membrane surface, as detected by in situ synchrotron grazing-incidence X-ray diffraction. Concomitantly, membrane morphology and lipid packing became disrupted. Our findings support a general tau aggregation mechanism wherein tau’s inherent surface activity and favorable interactions with anionic lipids drive tau-membrane association, inducing misfolding and self-assembly of the disordered tau into β-sheet-rich oligomers that subsequently seed fibrillation andmore »
The protein p53 is a crucial tumor suppressor, often called “the guardian of the genome”; however, mutations transform p53 into a powerful cancer promoter. The oncogenic capacity of mutant p53 has been ascribed to enhanced propensity to fibrillize and recruit other cancer fighting proteins in the fibrils, yet the pathways of fibril nucleation and growth remain obscure. Here, we combine immunofluorescence three-dimensional confocal microscopy of human breast cancer cells with light scattering and transmission electron microscopy of solutions of the purified protein and molecular simulations to illuminate the mechanisms of phase transformations across multiple length scales, from cellular to molecular. We report that the p53 mutant R248Q (R, arginine; Q, glutamine) forms, both in cancer cells and in solutions, a condensate with unique properties, mesoscopic protein-rich clusters. The clusters dramatically diverge from other protein condensates. The cluster sizes are decoupled from the total cluster population volume and independent of the p53 concentration and the solution concentration at equilibrium with the clusters varies. We demonstrate that the clusters carry out a crucial biological function: they host and facilitate the nucleation of amyloid fibrils. We demonstrate that the p53 clusters are driven by structural destabilization of the core domain and not by more »
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- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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- Article No. e2015618118
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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