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Biochemistry. 2004 Jun 22;43(24):7808-15.

Oligomeric assembly of native-like precursors precedes amyloid formation by beta-2 microglobulin.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, 260 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8114, USA.


The deposition of beta-2-microglobulin (beta2m) as amyloid fibers results in debilitating complications for renal failure patients who are treated by hemodialysis. In vitro, wild-type beta2m can be converted to amyloid under physiological conditions by exposure to biomedically relevant concentrations of Cu(2+). In this work, we have made comparative measurements of the structural and oligomeric changes in beta2m at time points preceding fibrillogenesis. Our results show Cu(2+) mediates the formation of a monomeric, activated state followed by the formation of a discrete dimeric intermediate. The dimeric intermediates then assemble into tetra- and hexameric forms which display little additional oligomerization on the time scales of their own formation (<1 h). Amyloid fiber formation progresses from these intermediate states but on much longer time scales (>1 week). Although Cu(2+) is necessary for the generation and stabilization of these intermediates, it is not required for the stability of mature amyloid fibers. This suggests that Cu(2+) acts as an initiating factor of amyloidosis by inducing oligomer formation. (1)H NMR and near-UV circular dichroism are used to establish that oligomeric intermediates are native-like in structure. The native-like structure and discrete oligomeric size of beta2m amyloid intermediates suggest that this protein forms fibrils by structural domain swapping.

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