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J Biol Chem. 2010 Feb 26;285(9):6071-9. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.069542. Epub 2009 Dec 15.

Fibrillar oligomers nucleate the oligomerization of monomeric amyloid beta but do not seed fibril formation.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, University of California, Irvine, California 92697, USA.


Soluble amyloid oligomers are potent neurotoxins that are involved in a wide range of human degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer disease. In Alzheimer disease, amyloid beta (Abeta) oligomers bind to neuronal synapses, inhibit long term potentiation, and induce cell death. Recent evidence indicates that several immunologically distinct structural variants exist as follows: prefibrillar oligomers (PFOs), fibrillar oligomers (FOs), and annular protofibrils. Despite widespread interest, amyloid oligomers are poorly characterized in terms of structural differences and pathological significance. FOs are immunologically related to fibrils because they react with OC, a conformation-dependent, fibril-specific antibody and do not react with antibodies specific for other types of oligomers. However, fibrillar oligomers are much smaller than fibrils. FOs are soluble at 100,000 x g, rich in beta-sheet structures, but yet bind weakly to thioflavin T. EPR spectroscopy indicates that FOs display significantly more spin-spin interaction at multiple labeled sites than PFOs and are more structurally similar to fibrils. Atomic force microscopy indicates that FOs are approximately one-half to one-third the height of mature fibrils. We found that Abeta FOs do not seed the formation of thioflavin T-positive fibrils from Abeta monomers but instead seed the formation of FOs from Abeta monomers that are positive for the OC anti-fibril antibody. These results indicate that the lattice of FOs is distinct from the fibril lattice even though the polypeptide chains are organized in an immunologically identical conformation. The FOs resulting from seeded reactions have the same dimensions and morphology as the initial seeds, suggesting that the seeds replicate by growing to a limiting size and then splitting, indicating that their lattice is less stable than fibrils. We suggest that FOs may represent small pieces of single fibril protofilament and that the addition of monomers to the ends of FOs is kinetically more favorable than the assembly of the oligomers into fibrils via sheet stacking interaction. These studies provide novel structural insight into the relationship between fibrils and FOs and suggest that the increased toxicity of FOs may be due to their ability to replicate and the exposure of hydrophobic sheet surfaces that are otherwise obscured by sheet-sheet interactions between protofilaments in a fibril.

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