Research article

Tau protein is phosphorylated by cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase and calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II within its microtubule-binding domains at Ser-262 and Ser-356

Joel M. LITERSKY, Gail V. W. JOHNSON, Ross JAKES, Michel GOEDERT, Michael LEE, Peter SEUBERT


Phosphorylation of tau protein at Ser-262 has been shown to diminish its ability to bind to taxol-stabilized microtubules. The paired helical filaments (PHFs) found in Alzheimer's disease brain are composed of PHF-tau, which is hyperphosphorylated at multiple sites including Ser-262. However, protein kinase(s) able to phosphorylate this site are still under investigation. In this study, the ability of cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase (cAMP-PK) and calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) to phosphorylate tau at Ser-262, as well as Ser-356, is demonstrated by use of a monoclonal antibody (12E8) which has been shown to recognize tau when these sites are phosphorylated. Cleavage of cAMP-PK-phosphorylated tau at cysteine residues by 2-nitro-5-thiocyanobenzoic acid, which cuts the protein into essentially two fragments and separates Ser-262 from Ser-356, revealed that cAMP-PK phosphorylates both Ser-262 and Ser-356. In addition, phosphorylation with cAMP-PK or CaMKII of recombinant tau in which Ser-262, Ser-356 or both had been mutated to alanines, clearly demonstrated that cAMP-PK and CaMKII were able to phosphorylate both sites. Mitogen-activated protein kinase or protein kinase C did not phosphorylate tau at Ser-262 and/or Ser-356. Finally, evidence is presented that phosphorylation of both these sites occurs in cultured nerve cells under certain conditions, indicating their potential physiological relevance.