Binding between the microtubule-associated tau protein and S100b protein was demonstrated by affinity chromatography and cross-linking experiments and was manifested in the effect of S100b on tau protein phosphorylation by protein kinase II. All three expressions of the binding showed that S100b discriminates among the four species of tau, revealing for the first time that the different kinds of tau may differ functionally. Noncovalent interaction between tau and S100b depended on the presence of Ca2+ or Zn2+ and resulted in total inhibition of tau phosphorylation by protein kinase II. In the absence of reducing agent, covalent binding studies between Cys84 beta in the carboxyl-terminal region of the S100b-beta subunit and tau proteins confirmed interactions between the two proteins. It is suggested that the homologous calcium-binding domain that characterizes the carboxyl terminus of S100 and the tubulin subunit may be responsible for the common interaction of both proteins with tau proteins. The physicochemical relationship between S100 subunits and p11, the subunit of a substrate for tyrosine kinase, and their similarity in interaction with protein kinase substrates are discussed.
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