Identification of a novel microtubule binding and assembly domain in the developmentally regulated inter-repeat region of tau.
Tau protein undergoes a shift in its molecular mass and its electrophoretic complexity during early postnatal development. We have sequenced a tau cDNA from an adult rat brain expression library and have found two inserted sequences. One of these inserts predicts a fourth repeated sequence homologous to the other three in the carboxyl end of tau that have the property of microtubule binding. Oligonucleotide probes directed against the insert hybridized only to tau mRNA at postnatal time points, even though tau is first expressed as early as embryonic day 13. A probe directed against the junction revealed expression of non-insert-containing tau mRNA from embryonic day 14 until postnatal day 8, after which time there was an abrupt decline in the expression of this immature form. Comparison of the developmentally expressed tau sequences with those sequences obtained directly from Alzheimer paired helical filaments revealed the presence of both the mature and the immature tau mRNA sequences.