AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 2, 2018

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Tau-Tolly Microtubular!

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, Berkeley have combined cutting-edge cryo-­electron microscopy (cryo-EM) with computational molecular modeling to produce a near atomic-resolution model of the interaction between microtubules—crucial components of eukaryotic cell ultrastructure—and microtubule-associated proteins called tau.

The model provides insight into how tau stabilizes microtubules, and what makes it dissociate to form tau aggregates, or “tangles,” in some neurological diseases—including Alzheimer’s disease—generally referred to as tauopathies.

Microtubules play an important role in maintaining cell shape, enabling some forms of locomotion, facilitating intracellular transport, and segregating chromosomes during mitosis. Each microtubule is a hollow cylinder composed of thirteen parallel protofilaments of tubulin protein.

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