Acetylation of the KXGS motifs in tau is a critical determinant in modulation of tau aggregation and clearance

Casey Cook, Yari Carlomagno, Tania F. Gendron, Judy Dunmore, Kristyn Scheffel, Caroline Stetler, Mary Davis, Dennis Dickson, Matthew Jarpe, Michael DeTure, Leonard Petrucelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


The accumulation of hyperphosphorylated tau in neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) is a neuropathological hallmark of tauopathies, including Alzheimer's disease (AD) and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, but effective therapies directly targeting the tau protein are currently lacking. Herein, we describe a novel mechanism in which the acetylation of tau on KXGSmotifs inhibits phosphorylation on this samemotif, and also prevents tau aggregation. Using a site-specific antibody to detect acetylation of KXGS motifs, we demonstrate that these sites are hypoacetylated in patients with AD, as well as amouse model of tauopathy, suggesting that loss of acetylation on KXGS motifs renders tau vulnerable to pathogenic insults. Furthermore, we identify histone deacetylase 6 (HDAC6) as the enzyme responsible for the deacetylation of these residues, and provide proof of concept that acute treatment with a selective and blood-brain barrier-permeable HDAC6 inhibitor enhances acetylation and decreases phosphorylation on tau's KXGSmotifs in vivo. As such, we have uncovered a novel therapeutic pathway that can be manipulated to block the formation of pathogenic tau species in disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberddt402
Pages (from-to)104-116
Number of pages13
JournalHuman molecular genetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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