Tau interconverts between diffusive and stable populations on the microtubule surface in an isoform and lattice specific manner

Derrick P. Mcvicker, Gregory J. Hoeprich, Andrew R. Thompson, Christopher L. Berger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


It has been demonstrated that Tau exists on the microtubule lattice in both diffusing and static populations, but how this may relate to Tau function is currently unclear. Tau isoforms are developmentally regulated and have been shown to have disparate effects on microtubule polymerization, the ability to bind microtubules, and the ability to inhibit kinesin. It has also been shown that Tau is sensitive to microtubule stabilizing agents and the ability to affect the persistence length of microtubules and to inhibit kinesin can be altered by stabilizing microtubules with various nucleotide analogs. Given these observations, it is likely the behavior of Tau is dictated by both the isoform of Tau and by structural changes in the microtubule lattice. In the present study, we use single molecule imaging to examine the behavior of the three-repeat short (3RS) isoform and the four-repeat long (4RL) isoform on different microtubule tracks stabilized with either paclitaxel or guanylyl-(α,β)-methylene-diphosphate (GMPCPP). On paclitaxel-stabilized microtubules, we find 3RS-Tau favors the static conformation and forms complexes consisting of 2-3 molecules, while 4RL-Tau predominantly exists as a single molecule equally distributed between the static and diffusing populations. However, on GMPCPP-stabilized microtubules both isoforms favor the diffusing conformation and do not form static complexes composed of more than one Tau molecule. We find both isoforms of Tau interconvert between static and diffusing populations on the microtubule surface, and the equilibrium between these two states depends on both the isoform of Tau and the structure of the underlying microtubule lattice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-194
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Cytoskeleton
  • Kinesin
  • Microtubule
  • Neuron
  • Nucleotide
  • Tau


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