The Proline-rich Domain Promotes Tau Liquid Liquid Phase Separation in Cells.
Abstract: Tau protein in vitro can undergo liquid liquid phase separation (LLPS); however, observations of this phase transition in living cells are limited. To investigate protein state transitions in living cells we found that Cry2 can optogentically increase the association of full lengh tau with microtubules. To probe this mechanism, we identified tau domains that drive tau clustering on microtubules in living cells. The polyproline rich domain (PRD) drives LLPS and does so under the control of phosphorylation. These readily observable cytoplasmic condensates underwent fusion and fluorescence recovery after photobleaching consistent with the ability of the PRD to undergo LLPS in vitro. In absence of the MTBD, the tau PRD co-condensed with EB1, a regulator of plus-end microtubule dynamic instability. The specific domain properties of the MTBD and PRD serve distinct but mutually complementary roles that utilize LLPS in a cellular context to implement emergent functionalities that scale their relationship from binding alpha-beta tubulin heterodimers to the larger proportions of microtubules.