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J Mol Biol. 2010 Aug 6;401(1):115-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2010.05.060. Epub 2010 Jun 9.

SDS-induced fibrillation of alpha-synuclein: an alternative fibrillation pathway.

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Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center (iNANO), Gustav Wieds Vej 10C, Aarhus University, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.


A structural investigation of the sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS)-induced fibrillation of alpha-synuclein (alphaSN), a 140-amino-acid protein implicated in Parkinson's disease, has been performed. Spectroscopic analysis has been combined with isothermal titration calorimetry, small-angle X-ray scattering, and transmission electron microscopy to elucidate a fibrillation pathway that is remarkably different from the fibrillation pathway in the absence of SDS. Fibrillation occurs most extensively and most rapidly (starting within 45 min) under conditions where 12 SDS molecules are bound per alphaSN molecule, which is also the range where SDS binding is associated with the highest enthalpy. Fibrillation is only reduced in proportion to the fraction of SDS below 25 mol% SDS in mixed surfactant mixtures with nonionic surfactants and is inhibited by formation of bulk micelles and induction of alpha-helical structure. In this fibrillogenic complex, 4 alphaSN molecules initially associate with 40-50 SDS molecules to form a shared micelle that gradually grows in size. The complex initially exhibits a mixture of random coil and alpha-helix, but incubation results in a structural conversion into beta-sheet structure and concomitant formation of thioflavin-T-binding fibrils over a period of several hours. Based on small-angle X-ray scattering, the aggregates elongate as a beads-on-a-string structure in which individual units of ellipsoidal SDS-alphaSN are bridged by strings of the protein, so that aggregates nucleate around the surface of protein-stabilized micelles. Thus, fibrillation in this case occurs by a process of continuous accretion rather than by the rate-limiting accumulation of a distinct nucleus. The morphology of the SDS-induced fibrils does not exhibit the classical rod-like structures formed by alphaSN when aggregated by agitation in the absence of SDS. The SDS-induced fibrils have a flexible worm-like appearance, which can be converted into classical straight fibrils by continuous agitation. SDS-induced fibrillation represents an alternative and highly reproducible mechanism for fibrillation where protein association is driven by the formation of shared micelles, which subsequently allows the formation of beta-sheet structures that presumably link individual micelles. This illustrates that protein fibrillation may occur by remarkably different mechanisms, testifying to the versatility of this process.

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