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Biochemistry. 2012 Dec 21;51(51):10127-36. doi: 10.1021/bi301406d. Epub 2012 Dec 12.

Core sequence of PAPf39 amyloid fibrils and mechanism of pH-dependent fibril formation: the role of monomer conformation.

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  • 1Department of Biology and Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 110 8th Street, Troy, NY 12180, USA.


PAPf39, a 39-residue peptide fragment from human prostatic acidic phosphatase, has been shown to form amyloid fibrils in semen (SEVI), which increase HIV infectivity by up to 5 orders of magnitude. The sequence of the PAPf39 fibrillar core was identified using hydrogen-deuterium exchange (HDX) mass spectrometry and protease protection assays. The central and C-terminal regions are highly protected from HDX and proteolytic cleavage and, thus, are part of the fibrillar core. Conversely, the N-terminal region is unprotected from HDX and proteolytic cleavage, suggesting that it is exposed and not part of the fibrillar core. This finding was tested using two N-terminal truncated variants, PAPf39Δ1-8 and PAPf39Δ1-13. Both variants formed amyloid fibrils at neutral pH. However, these variants showed a markedly different pH dependence of fibril formation versus that of PAPf39. PAPf39 fibrils can form at pH 7.7, but not at pH 5.5 or 2.5, while both N-terminally truncated variants can form fibrils at these pH values. Thus, the N-terminal region is not necessary for fibril formation but modulates the pH dependence of PAPf39 fibril formation. PAPf39Δ1-8 and PAPf39Δ1-13 are capable of seeding PAPf39 fibril formation at neutral pH, suggesting that these variants are structurally compatible with PAPf39, yet no mixed fibril formation occurs between the truncated variants and PAPf39 at low pH. This suggests that pH affects the PAPf39 monomer conformational ensemble, which is supported by far-UV circular dichroism spectroscopy. A conceptual model describing the pH dependence of PAPf39 aggregation is proposed and provides potential biological implications.

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