Cell Biology

Tau and Microtubule Motors

Science Signaling  26 Feb 2008:
Vol. 1, Issue 8, pp. ec77
DOI: 10.1126/stke.18ec77

The microtubule-associated protein tau is implicated in neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, but neither its normal nor its pathological role are well understood. Microtubules in cells are densely coated with microtubule-associated proteins, including tau, and Dixit et al. wanted to learn how motor proteins navigate on coated microtubules. The authors incorporated several isoforms and truncations of tau in a cell-free assay to build a complex system mimicking the cell environment. Encounters between individual motor proteins and tau on microtubules were observed directly, which revealed dramatic differences between the effects of tau on the motility of two microtubule-based motors, dynein versus kinesin. It appears likely that tau can spatially regulate the balance of microtubule-dependent axonal transport in neurons.

R. Dixit, J. L. Ross, Y. E. Goldman, E. L. F. Holzbaur, Differential regulation of dynein and kinesin motor proteins by tau. Science 319, 1086-1089 (2008). [Abstract] [Full Text]