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Biochem J. 2012 Oct 1;447(1):43-50. doi: 10.1042/BJ20120034.

Structural origin of polymorphism of Alzheimer's amyloid β-fibrils.

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Department of Neurology, Brain Research Institute, Molecular Biology Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Formation of senile plaques containing amyloid fibrils of Aβ (amyloid β-peptide) is a pathological hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. Unlike globular proteins, which fold into unique structures, the fibrils of Aβ and other amyloid proteins often contain multiple polymorphs. Polymorphism of amyloid fibrils leads to different toxicity in amyloid diseases and may be the basis for prion strains, but the structural origin for fibril polymorphism is still elusive. In the present study we investigate the structural origin of two major fibril polymorphs of Aβ40: an untwisted polymorph formed under agitated conditions and a twisted polymorph formed under quiescent conditions. Using electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, we studied the inter-strand side-chain interactions at 14 spin-labelled positions in the Aβ40 sequence. The results of the present study show that the agitated fibrils have stronger inter-strand spin-spin interactions at most of the residue positions investigated. The two hydrophobic regions at residues 17-20 and 31-36 have the strongest interactions in agitated fibrils. Distance estimates on the basis of the spin exchange frequencies suggest that inter-strand distances at residues 17, 20, 32, 34 and 36 in agitated fibrils are approximately 0.2 Å (1 Å=0.1 nm) closer than in quiescent fibrils. We propose that the strength of inter-strand side-chain interactions determines the degree of β-sheet twist, which then leads to the different association patterns between different cross β-units and thus distinct fibril morphologies. Therefore the inter-strand side-chain interaction may be a structural origin for fibril polymorphism in Aβ and other amyloid proteins.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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