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Ion Channel Formation by Tau Protein: Implications for Alzheimer's Disease and Tauopathies.

  • Author(s): Patel, Nirav
  • Ramachandran, Srinivasan
  • Azimov, Rustam
  • Kagan, Bruce L
  • Lal, Ratnesh
  • et al.

Tau is a microtubule associated protein implicated in the pathogenesis of several neurodegenerative diseases. Because of the channel forming properties of other amyloid peptides, we employed planar lipid bilayers and atomic force microscopy to test tau for its ability to form ion permeable channels. Our results demonstrate that tau can form such channels, but only under acidic conditions. The channels formed are remarkably similar to amyloid peptide channels in their appearance, physical and electrical size, permanence, lack of ion selectivity, and multiple channel conductances. These channels differ from amyloid channels in their voltage dependence and resistance to blockade by zinc ion. These channels could explain tau's pathologic role in disease by lowering membrane potential, dysregulating calcium, depolarizing mitochondria, or depleting energy stores. Tau might also combine with amyloid beta peptides to form toxic channels.

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