Tau proteins consist of a family of proteins, heterogeneous in size, which associate with microtubules in vivo and are induced during neurite outgrowth. In humans, tau is one of the major components of the pathognomonic neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer's disease brain. Screening of a cDNA library prepared from bovine brain led to the isolation of several cDNA clones encoding tau proteins with different N termini and differing by insertions or deletions, suggesting differential splicing of the tau transcripts. One of the N-terminal domains and the repeated C-terminal domain of the encoded tau proteins are recognized by polyclonal antibodies to bovine tau. The bovine tau proteins are highly homologous to murine and human tau, especially within the repeated C-terminal domain. Compared with murine and human tau, bovine tau contains the insertion of three longer segments, one of which is an additional characteristic repeat. Portions of tau proteins generated by in vitro translation were used to show that these repeats represent tubulin-binding domains, two of which are sufficient to bind to microtubules assembled from purified tubulin in the presence of taxol.