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J Biol Chem. 2001 Dec 14;276(50):46714-21. Epub 2001 Oct 5.

A partially structured species of beta 2-microglobulin is significantly populated under physiological conditions and involved in fibrillogenesis.

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


The folding of beta(2)-microglobulin (beta(2)-m), the protein forming amyloid deposits in dialysis-related amyloidosis, involves formation of a partially folded conformation named I(2), which slowly converts into the native fold, N. Here we show that the partially folded species I(2) can be separated from N by capillary electrophoresis. Data obtained with this technique and analysis of kinetic data obtained with intrinsic fluorescence indicate that the I(2) conformation is populated to approximately 14 +/- 8% at equilibrium under conditions of pH and temperature close to physiological. In the presence of fibrils extracted from patients, the I(2) conformer has a 5-fold higher propensity to aggregate than N, as indicated by the thioflavine T test and light scattering measurements. A mechanism of aggregation of beta(2)-m in vivo involving the association of the preformed fibrils with the fraction of I(2) existing at equilibrium is proposed from these results. The possibility of isolating and quantifying a partially folded conformer of beta(2)-m involved in the amyloidogenesis process provides new opportunities to monitor hemodialytic procedures aimed at the reduction of such species from the pool of circulating beta(2)-m but also to design new pharmaceutical approaches that consider such species as a putative molecular target.

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