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Tau protein in smooth muscle cells and tissues

By Nataliia V. Shults, Sarah Seeherman, Nurefsan E. Sariipek, Vladyslava Rybka, Lucia Marcocci, Sergiy G. Gychka, Yasmine F. Ibrahim, Yuichiro J. Suzuki

Posted 15 Oct 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.15.341867

Tau is a microtubule-associated protein and plays a critical role in the pathophysiology of neurons. However, whether tau protein is expressed in smooth muscle cells is unknown. Here, we report that tau protein is expressed and is constitutively phosphorylated at threonine 181 in various smooth muscle cell types, including human cerebral artery smooth muscle cells, human pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells, and human bronchial airway smooth muscle cells. We also detected the expression of tau protein in the vascular smooth muscle of brain tissues from patients with systemic hypertension who died of ischemic stroke. Immunofluorescence staining revealed that phosphorylated tau at threonine 181 is more organized in the cell than does total tau protein. A protein phosphatase inhibitor, calyculin A induced the formation of higher molecular weight species of phosphorylated tau as visualized by Western blotting, indicating the occurrence of tau aggregation. Immunofluorescence also showed that calyculin A caused the aggregation of phosphorylated tau and disrupted the cytoskeletal organization. These results demonstrate the existence of tau protein in smooth muscle cells and tissues and that smooth muscle tau is susceptible to protein phosphorylation and aggregation. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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