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Assembly of the microtubule-associated protein into tauopathy fibril conformations dictates the pathology of a diversity of diseases. Recent cryogenic Electron Microscopy (cryo-EM) structures have uncovered distinct fibril conformations in different tauopathies but it remains unknown how these structures fold from a single protein sequence. It has been proposed that post-translational modifications may drive tau assembly but no direct mechanism for how modifications drive assembly has emerged. Leveraging established aggregation-regulating tau fragments that are normally inert, we tested the effect of chemical modification of lysines with acetyl groups on tau fragment conversion into amyloid aggregates. We identify specific patterns of acetylation that flank amyloidogenic motifs on the tau fragments that drive rapid fibril assembly. To understand how this pattern of acetylation may drive assembly, we determined a 3.9 Å cryo-EM structure of an amyloid fibril assembled from an acetylated tau fragment. The structure uncovers how lysine acetylation patterns mediate gain-of-function interactions to promote amyloid assembly. Comparison of the structure to an ex vivo tau fibril conformation from Pick's Disease reveals regions of high structural similarity. Finally, we show that our lysine- acetylated sequences exhibit fibril assembly activity in cell-based tau aggregation assays. Our data uncover the dual role of lysine residues in limiting aggregation while their acetylation leads to stabilizing pro-aggregation interactions. Design of tau sequence with specific acetylation patterns may lead to controllable tau aggregation to direct folding of tau into distinct folds.


Li Li, Binh Nguyen, Vishruth Mullapudi, Lorena Saelices, Lukasz A Joachimiak. Disease-associated patterns of acetylation stabilize tau fibril formation. bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology. 2023 Jan 10

PMID: 36711822

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