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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2005 Nov 10;1753(1):44-50. Epub 2005 Sep 23.

Limited proteolysis in the investigation of beta2-microglobulin amyloidogenic and fibrillar states.

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CEINGE Biotecnologie Avanzate, scarl, Università di Napoli Federico II, Via Comunale Margherita 482, 80145 Napoli, Italy.


Amyloid fibrils of patients treated with regular haemodialysis essentially consists of beta2-microglobulin (beta2-m) and its truncated species DeltaN6beta2-m lacking six residues at the amino terminus. The truncated fragment shows a higher propensity to self-aggregate and constitutes an excellent candidate for the analysis of a protein in the amyloidogenic conformation. The surface topology and the conformational analysis of native beta2-m and the truncated DeltaN6beta2-m species both in the soluble and in the fibrillar forms were investigated by the limited proteolysis/mass spectrometry strategy. The conformation in solution of a further truncated mutant DeltaN3beta2-m lacking three residues at the N-terminus was also examined. This approach appeared particularly suited to investigate the regions that are solvent-exposed, or flexible enough to be accessible to protein-protein interactions and to describe the conformation of transient intermediates. Moreover, proteolysis experiments can also be tailored to investigate amyloid fibrils by discriminating the protein regions constituting the unaccessible core of the fibrils and those still flexible and exposed to the solvent. Although native beta2-m and DeltaN3beta2-m shared essentially the same conformation, significative structural differences exist between the native and the DeltaN6beta2-m proteins in solution with major differences located at the end moiety of strand V and subsequent loop with strand VI and at both the N- and C-termini of the proteins. On the contrary, an identical distribution of preferential proteolytic sites was observed in both proteins in the fibrillar state, which was nearly superimposible to that observed for the soluble form of DeltaN6beta2-m. These data revealed that synthetic fibrils essentially consists of an unaccessible core comprising residues 20-87 of the beta2-m protein with exposed and flexible N- and C-terminal ends. Moreover, proteolytic cleavages observed in vitro at Lys 6 and Lys 19 reproduce specific cleavages that have to take place in vivo to generate the truncated forms of beta2-m occurring in natural fibrils. On the basis of these results, a molecular mechanism for fibril formation has been proposed.

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