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Prion. 2012 Sep-Oct;6(4):339-45. doi: 10.4161/pri.21022. Epub 2012 Aug 9.

Alzheimer Aβ peptide interactions with lipid membranes: fibrils, oligomers and polymorphic amyloid channels.

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School of Physics, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.


Fibrillar aggregates of misfolded amyloid proteins are involved in a variety of diseases such as Alzheimer disease (AD), type 2 diabetes, Parkinson, Huntington and prion-related diseases. In the case of AD amyloid β (Aβ) peptides, the toxicity of amyloid oligomers and larger fibrillar aggregates is related to perturbing the biological function of the adjacent cellular membrane. We used atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of Aβ 9-40 fibrillar oligomers modeled as protofilament segments, including lipid bilayers and explicit water molecules, to probe the first steps in the mechanism of Aβ-membrane interactions. Our study identified the electrostatic interaction between charged peptide residues and the lipid headgroups as the principal driving force that can modulate the further penetration of the C-termini of amyloid fibrils or fibrillar oligomers into the hydrophobic region of lipid membranes. These findings advance our understanding of the detailed molecular mechanisms and the effects related to Aβ-membrane interactions, and suggest a polymorphic structural character of amyloid ion channels embedded in lipid bilayers. While inter-peptide hydrogen bonds leading to the formation of β-strands may still play a stabilizing role in amyloid channel structures, these may also present a significant helical content in peptide regions (e.g., termini) that are subject to direct interactions with lipids rather than with neighboring Aβ peptides.

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