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Curr Protein Pept Sci. 2008 Jun;9(3):291-309.

Natural protective amyloids.

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Department of Cell Biology and Biophysics, Faculty of Biology, University of Athens, Panepistimiopolis, Athens 15701, Greece.


Amyloidoses are a group of diseases including neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease and also type II diabetes, spongiform encephalopathies and many others, believed to be caused by protein aggregation and subsequent amyloid fibril formation. However, occasionally, living organisms exploit amyloid fibril formation, a property inherent into amino acid sequences, and perform specific physiological functions from amyloids, in differing biological contexts. Some of these functional amyloids are natural protective amyloids. Here, we review recent evidence on silkmoth chorion protein synthetic peptide-analogues that documents the function of silkmoth chorion, the major component of the eggshell, a structure with extraordinary physiological and mechanical properties, as a natural protective amyloid. Also, we briefly discuss the reported function of other natural, protective amyloids like fish chorion, the protein Pmel17 which forms amyloid fibrils that act as templates and accelerate the covalent polymerization of reactive small molecules into melanin, the hydrophobins and the antifreeze protein from winter flounder. Molecular self-assembly is becoming an increasingly popular route to new supramolecular structures and molecular materials and the inspiration for such structures is commonly derived from self-assembling systems in biology. Therefore, a careful examination of these studies may set the basis for the exploration of new routes for the formation of novel biocompatible polymeric structures with exceptional physico-chemical properties, for potentially new biomedical and industrial applications.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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