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Cysteine sulfhydryls in tau display unusual hyperreactivity


One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is pathological tau aggregation. We previously reported that cinnamaldehyde, found in cinnamon, could inhibit tau aggregation in vitro, by reacting with one or both of the two cysteines in tau. In my thesis, I use spectrophotometric methods to show that both cysteines display hyperreactivity over model sulfhydryl compounds by as much as four fold. The hyperreactivity is specific to cysteines in tau as opposed to those in other sulfhydryl-containing cellular proteins. Cinnamaldehyde (CA) displays several characteristics that make it favorable as a possible inhibitor of aggregation in vivo: it is a water-soluble, brain-permeable molecule that is non-toxic and inexpensive. I now show in my thesis that the hyperreactivity of CA toward tau specifically, as described in this thesis, is an additional favorable property towards the goal of being a potential therapeutic.

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