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Protein family review

The MAP2/Tau family of microtubule-associated proteins

Leif Dehmelt and Shelley Halpain*

Author Affiliations

Department of Cell Biology, The Scripps Research Institute and Institute for Childhood and Neglected Diseases, 10550 North Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA

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Genome Biology 2004, 6:204  doi:10.1186/gb-2004-6-1-204

Published: 23 December 2004

Abstract

Microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) of the MAP2/Tau family include the vertebrate proteins MAP2, MAP4, and Tau and homologs in other animals. All three vertebrate members of the family have alternative splice forms; all isoforms share a conserved carboxy-terminal domain containing microtubule-binding repeats, and an amino-terminal projection domain of varying size. MAP2 and Tau are found in neurons, whereas MAP4 is present in many other tissues but is generally absent from neurons. Members of the family are best known for their microtubule-stabilizing activity and for proposed roles regulating microtubule networks in the axons and dendrites of neurons. Contrary to this simple, traditional view, accumulating evidence suggests a much broader range of functions, such as binding to filamentous (F) actin, recruitment of signaling proteins, and regulation of microtubule-mediated transport. Tau is also implicated in Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. The ability of MAP2 to interact with both microtubules and F-actin might be critical for neuromorphogenic processes, such as neurite initiation, during which networks of microtubules and F-actin are reorganized in a coordinated manner. Various upstream kinases and interacting proteins have been identified that regulate the microtubule-stabilizing activity of MAP2/Tau family proteins.