Kinetically distinct phases of tau on microtubules regulate kinesin motors and severing enzymes
Tau is an intrinsically disordered protein, which diffuses on microtubules. In neurodegenerative diseases collectively termed tauopathies, tau malfunction and its detachment from axonal microtubules is correlated with microtubule degradation. It is known that tau can protect microtubules from microtubule-degrading enzymes, such as katanin. However, how tau can fulfill such regulative function is still unclear. Using in vitro reconstitution, we here show that tau molecules on microtubules cooperatively form islands of an ordered layer with regulatory qualities distinct from a comparably dense layer of diffusible tau. These islands shield the microtubules from katanin and kinesin-1 but are penetrable by kinesin-8 which causes the islands to disassemble. Our results indicate a new phase of tau, constituting an adjustable protective sheath around microtubules.