Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Molecular and Cell Biology

First Advisor

Gloria Lee


The microtubule-associated protein tau normally functions to bind to and stabilize microtubules. However, evidence now indicates that tau may also play a critical role in signaling pathways linked to neuronal development and neurodegeneration. The tau association with numerous signaling proteins such as tyrosine kinases, adaptor proteins, and scaffold proteins support this hypothesis. Phospho-Y18 tau was previously found in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) brain. Interestingly, this phosphorylation appeared to be regulated during neurodegeneration possibly by a tyrosine phosphatase(s). Identifying a candidate phosphatase, our lab found the association between tau and SHP2 in a neuronal cell line and dephosphorylation of phospho-Y18 by protein tyrosine phosphatase SHP2 in vitro. Since both tau and SHP2 play a critical role in NGF-induced signaling pathway, these findings raised the possibility that the tau-SHP2 association has a role in NGF signaling.

The aim of this dissertation research is to characterize the tau-SHP2 association and its role in neuronal signaling. Here, we provide evidence that tau phosphorylation is not required for SHP2 association but significantly enhances the interaction. The SHP2 binding region of tau napped to residues 256-273, which contain the microtubule binding repeat 1 of tau. Using in situ proximity ligation assay (PLA), we also showed the presence of endogenous tau-SHP2 and tau-activated SHP2 complexes in neuronal cells. The number of complexes was increased in the cells in response to NGF. Our PLA data also showed the localization of these complexes to actin ruffles. In NGF signaling, we showed that phosphorylation at T231 of tau was necessary for the increase in tau-SHP2 association. Lastly, we provide evidence that tau-SHP2 complexes are present in mouse primary neuronal cultures and mouse brain sections. Together, these findings show a role for tau phosphorylation in SHP2 binding and a potential role for tau-SHP2 interaction in neuronal signal transduction. Based on our findings, we speculate that there is a role for tau-SHP2 association during early brain development and in neurodegenerative disease.


Phosphorylation, SHP2, Signal Transduction, Tau


xiii, 120 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 101-120).


Copyright © 2017 Yohan Kim

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