The microtubule-associated protein tau is known to be post-translationally modified by the addition of N-acetyl-D: -glucosamine monosaccharides to certain serine and threonine residues. These O-GlcNAc modification sites on tau have been challenging to identify due to the inherent complexity of tau from mammalian brains and the fact that the O-GlcNAc modification typically has substoichiometric occupancy. Here, we describe a method for the production of recombinant O-GlcNAc modified tau and, using this tau, we have mapped sites of O-GlcNAc on tau at Thr-123 and Ser-400 using mass spectrometry. We have also detected the presence of a third O-GlcNAc site on either Ser-409, Ser-412, or Ser-413. Using this information we have raised a rabbit polyclonal IgG antibody (3925) that detects tau O-GlcNAc modified at Ser-400. Further, using this antibody we have detected the Ser-400 tau O-GlcNAc modification in rat brain, which confirms the validity of this in vitro mapping approach. The identification of these O-GlcNAc sites on tau and this antibody will enable both in vivo and in vitro experiments designed to understand the possible functional roles of O-GlcNAc on tau.

Source: Yuzwa, S.A. et al. Amino Acids 40, 857-68 (2011).