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Prion. 2009 Jan-Mar;3(1):1-4. Epub 2009 Jan 28.

Metal binding sheds light on mechanisms of amyloid assembly.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8114, USA.


Beta-2 microglobulin (beta2m) is the protein responsible for amyloid deposition in Dialysis-Related Amyloidosis (DRA). Aggregation can be induced by various solution conditions including exposure to divalent metal, incubation at acidic pH, and limited proteolysis. Using Cu(2+) as a trigger, we have trapped, isolated, and crystallized a stable oligomer of beta2m that is populated under amyloidogenic solution conditions (Calabrese et al. Nat Struct Mol Biol 2008; 15:965-71). This structure reveals that Cu(2+)-binding is associated with dramatic conformational rearrangements. This has allowed us to postulate a set of structural changes common to all beta2m aggregation pathways. Cu(2+) serves as a potential trigger in other aggregation systems such as Abeta, alpha-synuclein, and mammalian Prion (PrP). A comparison of Cu(2+) binding to beta2m and PrP reveals common features. Therefore, in addition to providing insight into DRA, induction of structure by Cu(2+) binding appears to be a recurring structural motif for pathological changes in conformation.

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