Oxidative Stress Conditions Result in Trapping of PHF-Core Tau (297–391) Intermediates

Mahmoud B. Maina, Youssra K. Al-Hilaly, Gunasekhar Burra, Janet E. Rickard, Charles R. Harrington, Claude M. Wischik, Louise C. Serpell* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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The self-assembly of tau into paired helical filaments (PHFs) in neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) is a significant event in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathogenesis. Numerous post-translational modifications enhance or inhibit tau assembly into NFTs. Oxidative stress, which accompanies AD, induces multiple post-translational modifications in proteins, including the formation of dityrosine (DiY) cross-links. Previous studies have revealed that metal-catalysed oxidation (MCO) using Cu2+ and H2O2 leads to the formation of DiY cross-links in two misfolding proteins, Aβ and α-synuclein, associated with AD and Parkinson’s disease respectively. The effect of MCO on tau remains unknown. Here, we examined the effect of MCO and ultra-violet oxidation to study the influence of DiY cross-linking on the self-assembly of the PHF-core tau fragment. We report that DiY cross-linking facilitates tau assembly into tau oligomers that fail to bind thioflavin S, lack β-sheet structure and prevents their elongation into filaments. At a higher concentration, Cu2+ (without H2O2) also facilitates the formation of these tau oligomers. The DiY cross-linked tau oligomers do not cause cell death. Our findings suggest that DiY cross-linking of pre-assembled tau promotes the formation of soluble tau oligomers that show no acute impact on cell viability.
Original languageEnglish
Article number703
Number of pages17
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding: This work was supported by funding from Alzheimer’s Society [345 (AS-PG-16b-010)] awarded to L.C.S. and funding M.B.M. Y.K.A.-H. is supported by WisTa Laboratories Ltd. (PAR1596). The work was supported by ARUK South Coast Network. G.B. was supported by European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) Short-Term Fellowship award (EMBO-STF 7674). LCS is supported by BBSRC [BB/S003657/1].
Acknowledgments: TEM work was performed at the University of Sussex’s Electron microscopy imaging centre (EMC), funded by the School of Life Sciences, the Wellcome Trust (095605/Z/11/A, 208348/Z/17/Z) and the RM Phillips Trust. The authors thank Pascale Schellenberger for valuable support.


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • tau
  • dityrosine
  • paired helical filament
  • Oxidative Stress


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