BACKGROUND: Tau hyperphosphorylation and aggregation to form intracellular neurofibrillar tangles is prevalent in a number of tauopathies. Thus there is current interest in the mechanisms involved in Tau clearance. It was recently reported that Tau can be degraded by an aminopeptidase known as the puromycin sensitive aminopeptidase (PSA). Until now PSA has been reported to only cleave peptides, with the largest reported substrates having 30-50 amino acids. We have studied this unique PSA cleavage reaction using a number of different PSA preparations.

RESULTS: An N-terminally His tagged-PSA was expressed and purified from Sf9 insect cells. Although this PSA preparation cleaved Tau, product analysis with N and C terminal Tau antibodies coupled with mass spectrometry showed an endoproteolytic cleavage atypical for an aminopeptidase. Furthermore, the reaction was not blocked by the general aminopeptidase inhibitor bestatin or the specific PSA inhibitor puromycin. In order to test whether Tau hydrolysis might be caused by a protease contaminant the enzyme was expressed in E. coli as glutathione S-transferase and maltose binding protein fusion proteins or in Sf9 cells as a C-terminally His-tagged protein. After purification to near homogeneity none of these other recombinant forms of PSA cleaved Tau. Further, Tau-cleaving activity and aminopeptidase activities derived from the Sf9 cell expression system were separable by molecular sieve chromatography. When tested in a cellular context we again failed to see a PSA dependent cleavage of Tau. A commercial preparation of a related aminopeptidase, aminopeptidase N, also exhibited Tau cleaving activity, but this activity could also be separated from aminopeptidase activity.

CONCLUSION: It is concluded that PSA does not directly cleave Tau.

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Published in Molecular Neurodegeneration, v. 5, 48.

© 2010 Chow et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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