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J Mol Biol. 2006 Aug 25;361(4):785-95. Epub 2006 Jul 12.

Structural differences in Abeta amyloid protofibrils and fibrils mapped by hydrogen exchange--mass spectrometry with on-line proteolytic fragmentation.

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Graduate School of Medicine University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37920, USA.


We report here structural differences between Abeta(1-40) protofibrils and mature amyloid fibrils associated with Alzheimer's disease as determined using hydrogen-deuterium exchange-mass spectrometry (HX-MS) coupled with on-line proteolysis. Specifically, we have identified regions of the Abeta(1-40) peptide containing backbone amide hydrogen atoms that are protected from HX or exposed when this peptide is incorporated into protofibrils or amyloid fibrils formed in phosphate-buffered saline without stirring at 37 degrees C. Study of protofibrils was facilitated by use of the protofibril-stabilizing agent calmidazolium chloride. Our data clearly show that both the C-terminal segment 35-40 and the N-terminal segment 1-19 are highly exposed to HX in both fibrils and protofibrils. In contrast, the internal fragment 20-34 is highly protected from exchange in fibrils but much less so in protofibrils. The data suggest that the beta-sheet elements comprising the amyloid fibril are already present in protofibrils, but that they are expanded into some adjacent residues upon the formation of mature amyloid. The N-terminal approximately ten residues appear to be unstructured in both protofibrils and fibrils. The 20-30 segment of Abeta(1-40) is more ordered in fibrils than in protofibrils, suggesting that, if protofibrils are a mechanistic precursor of fibrils, the transition from protofibril to fibril involves substantial ordering of this region of the Abeta peptide.

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