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J Biol Chem. 1993 Feb 15;268(5):3072-83.

Structural alterations in the peptide backbone of beta-amyloid core protein may account for its deposition and stability in Alzheimer's disease.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan 48201.


The structure of beta-amyloid (beta A) from Alzheimer disease brains was examined to determine if post-translational modifications might be linked to the abnormal deposition of this peptide in the diseased tissue. The beta A peptides were isolated from the compact amyloid cores of neuritic plaques and separated from minor glycoprotein components by size-exclusion high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). This parenchymal beta A has a maximal length of 42 residues, but shorter forms with "ragged" NH2 termini are also present. Tryptic peptide analysis revealed heterogeneity in the beta A1-5 and beta A6-16 peptides, each of which eluted as four peaks on reverse phase HPLC. Amino acid composition and sequence analyses, mass spectrometry, enzymatic methylation, and stereoisomer determinations revealed that these multiple peptide forms resulted from structural rearrangements of the aspartyl residues at beta A positions 1 and 7. The L-isoaspartyl form predominates at each of these positions, whereas the D-isoaspartyl, L-aspartyl, and D-aspartyl forms are present in lesser amounts. beta A purified from the leptomeningeal microvasculature contains the same structural alterations as parenchymal beta A, but is 2 residues shorter at its COOH terminus. Using two different purification protocols, and using a synthetic beta A1-42 peptide as a control, we show that these modifications arose endogenously and were not caused by the experimental manipulations. The abundance of structurally altered aspartyl residues may profoundly affect the conformation of the beta A protein within plaque cores and thus significantly impact normal catabolic processes designed to limit its deposition. These alterations may therefore contribute to the production and stability of beta-amyloid deposits in Alzheimer brain tissue.

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