Using intramolecular disulfide bonds in tau protein to deduce structural features of aggregation-resistant conformations.

The Journal of biological chemistry

PubMedID: 22291015

Walker S, Ullman O, Stultz CM. Using intramolecular disulfide bonds in tau protein to deduce structural features of aggregation-resistant conformations. J Biol Chem. 2012;287(12):9591-600.
Because tau aggregation likely plays a role in a number of neurodegenerative diseases, understanding the processes that affect tau aggregation is of considerable importance. One factor that has been shown to influence the aggregation propensity is the oxidation state of the protein itself. Tau protein, which contains two naturally occurring cysteine residues, can form both intermolecular disulfide bonds and intramolecular disulfide bonds. Several studies suggest that intermolecular disulfide bonds can promote tau aggregation in vitro. By contrast, although there are data to suggest that intramolecular disulfide bond formation retards tau aggregation in vitro, the precise mechanism underlying this observation remains unclear. While it has been hypothesized that a single intramolecular disulfide bond in tau leads to compact conformations that cannot form extended structure consistent with tau fibrils, there are few data to support this conjecture. In the present study we generate oxidized forms of the truncation mutant, K18, which contains all four microtubule binding repeats, and isolate the monomeric fraction, which corresponds to K18 monomers that have a single intramolecular disulfide bond. We study the aggregation propensity of the oxidized monomeric fraction and relate these data to an atomistic model of the K18 unfolded ensemble. Our results argue that the main effect of intramolecular disulfide bond formation is to preferentially stabilize conformers within the unfolded ensemble that place the aggregation-prone tau subsequences, PHF6* and PHF6, in conformations that are inconsistent with the formation of cross-ß-structure. These data further our understanding of the precise structural features that retard tau aggregation.