Microtubule-associated protein Tau (IPR002955)

Short name: Tau

Overlapping homologous superfamilies


Family relationships



Tau proteins are microtubule-associated proteins that are involved in microtubule assembly and stabilisation. They may also play a wider role in cellular shape, motility and signal transduction [PMID: 12475178]. Tau mRNA is expressed predominantly in neurones, and particularly in their axons. Quite a number of isoforms have been detected, which in human brain have been shown to arise from alternative splicing of an mRNA from a single gene located on chromosome 17. The isoforms contain 352-441 amino acid residues. A larger tau isoform has also been detected, which is expressed principally in the peripheral nervous system [PMID: 9786340].

Each isoform contains a variable number of C-terminal repeat regions that are thought to be responsible for tubulin-binding. The acidic N-terminal region projects from the micro-tubule surface when Tau is bound and may interact with other cytoskeletal elements. The middle region is proline-rich and may be a further binding site. It contains the target sites of many kinases, phosphorylation of this region may result in a change in the conformational state of the protein, and affect its ability to bind microtubules [PMID: 12475178].

Tau does not appear to be an essential protein, since transgenic mice lacking tau appear to develop a normal nervous system with only mild alterations in the structure of certain small-calibre axons [PMID: 8202139]. However, it has received much recent attention due to its possible role in the aetiogenesis of a number of human neurodegenerative diseases, filamentous inclusions containing tau having been found in the brains of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Pick's disease and progressive supranuclear palsy. Furthermore, tau gene mutations have been found in patients suffering familial frontotemporal dementia, which result in abnormal tau protein aggregates forming in the brain tissue [PMID: 10377376].

GO terms

Biological Process

No terms assigned in this category.

Molecular Function

GO:0008017 microtubule binding

Cellular Component

No terms assigned in this category.

Contributing signatures

Signatures from InterPro member databases are used to construct an entry.