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J Biol Chem. 2004 Apr 2;279(14):14111-9. Epub 2004 Jan 14.

Aggregation of the Acylphosphatase from Sulfolobus solfataricus: the folded and partially unfolded states can both be precursors for amyloid formation.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Scienze Biochimiche, Università di Firenze, Viale Morgagni 50, 50134 Firenze, Italy.


Protein aggregation is associated with a number of human pathologies including Alzheimer's and Creutzfeldt-Jakob diseases and the systemic amyloidoses. In this study, we used the acylphosphatase from the hyperthermophilic Archaea Sulfolobus solfataricus (Sso AcP) to investigate the mechanism of aggregation under conditions in which the protein maintains a folded structure. In the presence of 15-25% (v/v) trifluoroethanol, Sso AcP was found to form aggregates able to bind specific dyes such as thioflavine T, Congo red, and 1-anilino-8-naphthalenesulfonic acid. The presence of aggregates was confirmed by circular dichroism and dynamic light scattering. Electron microscopy revealed the presence of small aggregates generally referred to as amyloid protofibrils. The monomeric form adopted by Sso AcP prior to aggregation under these conditions retained enzymatic activity; in addition, folding was remarkably faster than unfolding. These observations indicate that Sso AcP adopts a folded, although possibly distorted, conformation prior to aggregation. Most important, aggregation appeared to be 100-fold faster than unfolding under these conditions. Although aggregation of Sso AcP was faster at higher trifluoroethanol concentrations, in which the protein adopted a partially unfolded conformation, these findings suggest that the early events of amyloid fibril formation may involve an aggregation process consisting of the assembly of protein molecules in their folded state. This conclusion has a biological relevance as globular proteins normally spend most of their lifetime in folded structures.

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