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Misfolding and Self-Assembly Dynamics of Microtubule-Binding Repeats of the Alzheimer-Related Protein Tau

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journal contribution
posted on 25.05.2021, 14:43 by Huan He, Yuying Liu, Yunxiang Sun, Feng Ding
Pathological aggregation of intrinsically disordered tau protein, driven by the interactions between microtubule-binding (MTB) domains, is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The MTB domain contains either three or four repeats with sequence similarities. Compared to amyloid β, many aspects of the misfolding and aggregation mechanisms of tau are largely unknown. In this study, we systematically investigated the dynamics of monomer misfolding and dimerization of each MTB repeat using atomistic discrete molecular dynamic simulations. Our results revealed that all the four repeat monomers (R1–R4) were very dynamic, featuring frequent conformational conversion and lacking stable conformations. While R1, R2, and R4 monomers occasionally adopted partially helical conformations, R3 monomers frequently formed β-sheets. In dimerization simulations, R3 displayed the strongest aggregation propensity with high β-sheet contents, while R1 was the least prone to aggregation. The R2 and R4 dimers contained both helix and β-sheet structures. The β-sheets in R4 assemblies were dominant with β-hairpin conformation. In R2 and R3 dimers, intermolecular β-sheets were mainly driven by residues around the paired helical filament (PHF) regions. Residues around the PHF6* in R2 and PHF6 in R3 had significantly higher intermolecular contacts than other regions, suggesting that these residues play a key role in the amyloid aggregation of tau. Our results on the structural ensembles and early aggregation dynamics of each tau MTB repeat will help understand the nucleation and fibrillization of tau.