Tau is an abundant microtubule-associated protein which regulates the stability of the cytoskeleton. Tau binds microtubules directly through microtubule-binding domains in its C-terminus. However, tau is not only located in the cytosol of cells, but also associated with other intracellular domains, including the plasma membrane, suggesting that tau may have additional functions other than stabilizing the neuronal cytoskeleton. Localization of tau at the cell surface appears to be dependent on interactions of the N-terminal projection domain of tau. Furthermore, membrane-associated tau is dephosphorylated at serine/threonine residues, suggesting that the phosphorylation state of tau regulates its intracellular trafficking. Dephosphorylation of tau may increase the association of tau with trafficking proteins which target tau to the plasma membrane. Thus it is possible that the hyperphosphoryation of tau may contribute to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease by promoting the formation of neurofibrillary tangles from cytosolic tau, and also by inhibiting additional tau functions through disruption of its targeting to the plasma membrane.

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