Tau: a signaling hub protein
Mueller, Rebecca L.
Alhadidy, Mohammed M.
Brady, Scott T.
Morfini, Gerardo A.
Kanaan, Nicholas M.
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Over four decades ago, in vitro experiments showed that tau protein interacts with and stabilizes microtubules in a phosphorylation-dependent manner. This observation fueled the widespread hypotheses that these properties extend to living neurons and that reduced stability of microtubules represents a major disease-driving event induced by pathological forms of tau in Alzheimer’s disease and other tauopathies. Accordingly, most research efforts to date have addressed this protein as a substrate, focusing on evaluating how specific mutations, phosphorylation, and other post-translational modifications impact its microtubule-binding and stabilizing properties. In contrast, fewer efforts were made to illuminate potential mechanisms linking physiological and disease-related forms of tau to the normal and pathological regulation of kinases and phosphatases. Here, we discuss published work indicating that, through interactions with various kinases and phosphatases, tau may normally act as a scaffolding protein to regulate phosphorylation-based signaling pathways. Expanding on this concept, we also review experimental evidence linking disease-related tau species to the misregulation of these pathways. Collectively, the available evidence supports the participation of tau in multiple cellular processes sustaining neuronal and glial function through various mechanisms involving the scaffolding and regulation of selected kinases and phosphatases at discrete subcellular compartments. The notion that the repertoire of tau functions includes a role as a signaling hub should widen our interpretation of experimental results and increase our understanding of tau biology in normal and disease conditions.
© The Author(s), 2021. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Mueller, R. L., Combs, B., Alhadidy, M. M., Brady, S. T., Morfini, G. A., & Kanaan, N. M. Tau: a signaling hub protein. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 14, (2021): 647054, https://doi.org/10.3389/fnmol.2021.647054.
Suggested CitationMueller, R. L., Combs, B., Alhadidy, M. M., Brady, S. T., Morfini, G. A., & Kanaan, N. M. (2021). Tau: a signaling hub protein. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 14, 647054.
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