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Alzheimer disease-specific conformation of hyperphosphorylated paired helical filament-tau is polyubiquitinated through Lys-48, Lys-11, and Lys-6 ubiquitin conjugation.

Cripps D., Thomas S.N., Jeng Y., Yang F., Davies P., Yang A.J.

One of the key pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer disease (AD) is the accumulation of paired helical filaments (PHFs) of hyperphosphorylated microtubule-associated protein Tau. Tandem mass spectrometry was employed to examine PHF-Tau post-translational modifications, in particular protein phosphorylation and ubiquitination, to shed light on their role in the early stages of Alzheimer disease. PHF-Tau from Alzheimer disease brain was affinity-purified by MC1 monoclonal antibody to isolate a soluble fraction of PHF-Tau in a conformation unique to human AD brain. A large number of phosphorylation sites were identified by employing a data-dependent neutral loss algorithm to trigger MS3 scans of phosphopeptides. It was found that soluble PHF-Tau is ubiquitinated at its microtubule-binding domain at residues Lys-254, Lys-311, and Lys-353, suggesting that ubiquitination of PHF-Tau may be an earlier pathological event than previously thought and that ubiquitination could play a regulatory role in modulating the integrity of microtubules during the course of AD. Tandem mass spectrometry data for ubiquitin itself indicate that PHF-Tau is modified by three polyubiquitin linkages, at Lys-6, Lys-11, and Lys-48. Relative quantitative analysis indicates that Lys-48-linked polyubiquitination is the primary form of polyubiquitination with a minor portion of ubiquitin linked at Lys-6 and Lys-11. Because modification by Lys-48-linked polyubiquitin chains is known to serve as the essential means of targeting proteins for degradation by the ubiquitin-proteasome system, and it has been reported that modification at Lys-6 inhibits ubiquitin-dependent protein degradation, a failure of the ubiquitin-proteasome system could play a role in initiating the formation of degradation-resistant PHF tangles.

J. Biol. Chem. 281:10825-10838(2006) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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