Structural determinants of tau aggregation inhibitor potency

Kelsey N. Schafer, Katryna Cisek, Carol J. Huseby, Edward Chang, Jeff Kuret

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Small-molecule Tau aggregation inhibitors are under investigation as potential therapeutic agents against Alzheimer disease. Many such inhibitors have been identified in vitro, but their potency-driving features, and their molecular targets in the Tau aggregation pathway, have resisted identification. Previously we proposed ligand polarizability, a measure of electron delocalization, as a candidate descriptor of inhibitor potency. Here we tested this hypothesis by correlating the ground state polarizabilities of cyanine, phenothiazine, and arylmethine derivatives calculated using ab initio quantum methods with inhibitory potency values determined in the presence of octadecyl sulfate inducer under reducing conditions.Aseries of rhodanine analogs was analyzed as well using potency values disclosed in the literature. Results showed that polarizability and inhibitory potency directly correlated within all four series. To identify putative binding targets, representative members of the four chemotypes were added to aggregation reactions, where they were found to stabilize soluble, but SDS-resistant Tau species at the expense of filamentous aggregates. Using SDS resistance as a secondary assay, and a library of Tau deletion and missense mutants as targets, interaction with cyanine was localized to the microtubule binding repeat region. Moreover, the SDS-resistant phenotype was completely dependent on the presence of octadecyl sulfate inducer, but not intact PHF6/PH6* hexapeptide motifs, indicating that cyanine interacted with a species in the aggregation pathway prior to nucleus formation. Together the data suggest that flat, highly polarizable ligands inhibit Tau aggregation by interacting with folded species in the aggregation pathway and driving their assembly into soluble but highly stable Tau oligomers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32599-32611
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number45
StatePublished - Nov 8 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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