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Prion. 2009 Jan-Mar;3(1):12-4. Epub 2009 Jan 16.

New insight into serpin polymerization and aggregation.

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University of Cambridge, Department of Haematology, Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, Cambridge, UK.


We recently solved the crystallographic structure of a dimeric form of the serpin antithrombin which has fundamentally changed the way we think about serpin polymerization. Like for other diseases that have protein deposition as a hallmark, the serpinopathies are associated with discrete inter-protomer linkage followed by subsequent association into larger fibrils and aggregates. Polymerization of the serpins is an off-pathway event that occurs during folding in the endoplasmic reticulum. Our structure reveals the nature of the polymerogenic folding intermediate, the reason that the inter-protomer linkage is hyperstable, and suggests a mechanism of lateral association of polymers into soluble fibrils and insoluble aggregates. While the basis of cellular toxicity is still unclear, novel therapeutic approaches targeting the folding intermediate or the lateral association event are now conceivable.

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