Microtubule-associated protein tau in a hyperphosphorylated state is the major component of the filamentous lesions that define a number of neurodegenerative diseases commonly referred to as tauopathies. Hyperphosphorylation of tau at most sites appears to precede filament assembly. Many of the hyperphosphorylated sites are serine/threonine-proline sequences. Here we show that c-Jun N-terminal kinases JNK1, JNK2 and JNK3 phosphorylate tau at many serine/threonine-prolines, as assessed by the generation of the epitopes of phosphorylation-dependent anti-tau antibodies. Of the three protein kinases, JNK2 phosphorylated the most sites in tau, followed by JNK3 and JNK1. Phosphorylation by JNK isoforms resulted in a greatly reduced ability of tau to promote microtubule assembly. These findings extend the number of candidate protein kinases for the hyperphosphorylation of tau in Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
- c-Jun N-terminal kinase
- Stress-activated protein kinase
- Tau protein