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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Feb 23;107(8):3469-74. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0912654107. Epub 2010 Feb 4.

Minimalist design of water-soluble cross-beta architecture.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The University of Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Demonstrated successes of protein design and engineering suggest significant potential to produce diverse protein architectures and assemblies beyond those found in nature. Here, we describe a new class of synthetic protein architecture through the successful design and atomic structures of water-soluble cross-beta proteins. The cross-beta motif is formed from the lamination of successive beta-sheet layers, and it is abundantly observed in the core of insoluble amyloid fibrils associated with protein-misfolding diseases. Despite its prominence, cross-beta has been designed only in the context of insoluble aggregates of peptides or proteins. Cross-beta's recalcitrance to protein engineering and conspicuous absence among the known atomic structures of natural proteins thus makes it a challenging target for design in a water-soluble form. Through comparative analysis of the cross-beta structures of fibril-forming peptides, we identified rows of hydrophobic residues ("ladders") running across beta-strands of each beta-sheet layer as a minimal component of the cross-beta motif. Grafting a single ladder of hydrophobic residues designed from the Alzheimer's amyloid-beta peptide onto a large beta-sheet protein formed a dimeric protein with a cross-beta architecture that remained water-soluble, as revealed by solution analysis and x-ray crystal structures. These results demonstrate that the cross-beta motif is a stable architecture in water-soluble polypeptides and can be readily designed. Our results provide a new route for accessing the cross-beta structure and expanding the scope of protein design.

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