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Title: Complexes of tubulin oligomers and tau form a viscoelastic intervening network cross-bridging microtubules into bundles

The axon-initial-segment (AIS) of mature neurons contains microtubule (MT) fascicles (linear bundles) implicated as retrograde diffusion barriers in the retention of MT-associated protein (MAP) tau inside axons. Tau dysfunction and leakage outside of the axon is associated with neurodegeneration. We report on the structure of steady-state MT bundles in varying concentrations of Mg2+or Ca2+divalent cations in mixtures containing αβ-tubulin, full-length tau, and GTP at 37 °C in a physiological buffer. A concentration-time kinetic phase diagram generated by synchrotron SAXS reveals a wide-spacing MT bundle phase (Bws), a transient intermediate MT bundle phase (Bint), and a tubulin ring phase. SAXS with TEM of plastic-embedded samples provides evidence of a viscoelastic intervening network (IN) of complexes of tubulin oligomers and tau stabilizing MT bundles. In this model, αβ-tubulin oligomers in the IN are crosslinked by tau’s MT binding repeats, which also link αβ-tubulin oligomers to αβ-tubulin within the MT lattice. The model challenges whether the cross-bridging of MTs is attributed entirely to MAPs. Tubulin-tau complexes in the IN or bound to isolated MTs are potential sites for enzymatic modification of tau, promoting nucleation and growth of tau fibrils in tauopathies.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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