The microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) has a critical role in the development and preservation of the nervous system. However, tau’s dysfunction and accumulation in the human brain can lead to several neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Down’s syndrome, and frontotemporal dementia. The microtubule binding (MTB) domain plays a significant, important role in determining the tau’s pathophysiology, as the core of paired helical filaments PHF6* (275VQIINK280) and PHF6 (306VQIVYK311) of R2 and R3 repeat units, respectively, are formed in this region, which promotes tau aggregation. Post-translational modifications, and in particular lysine acetylation at K280 of PHF6* and K311 of PHF6, have been previously established to promote tau misfolding and aggregation. However, the exact aggregation mechanism is not known. In this study, we established an atomic-level nucleation-extension mechanism of the separated aggregation of acetylated PHF6* and PHF6 hexapeptides, respectively, of tau. We show that the acetylation of the lysine residues promotes the formation of β-sheet enriched high-ordered oligomers. The Markov state model analysis of ac-PHF6* and ac-PHF6 aggregation revealed the formation of an antiparallel dimer nucleus which could be extended from both sides in a parallel manner to form mixed-oriented and high-ordered oligomers. Our study describes the detailed mechanism for acetylation-driven tau aggregation, which provides valuable insights into the effect of post-translation modification in altering the pathophysiology of tau hexapeptides.
- Markov state model
- molecular dynamics simulations