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Protein Eng Des Sel. 2013 Aug;26(8):503-13. doi: 10.1093/protein/gzt030. Epub 2013 Jun 19.

Early steps in thermal unfolding of superoxide dismutase 1 are similar to the conformational changes associated with the ALS-associated A4V mutation.

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Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-5013, USA.


There are over 100 mutations in Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1) that result in a subset of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (fALS) cases. The hypothesis that dissociation of the dimer, misfolding of the monomer and subsequent aggregation of mutant SOD1 leads to fALS has been gaining support as an explanation for how these disparate missense mutations cause the same disease. These forms are only responsible for a fraction of the ALS cases; however, the rest are sporadic. Starting with a folded apo monomer, the species considered most likely to be involved in misfolding, we used high-temperature all-atom molecular dynamics simulations to explore the events of the wild-type protein unfolding through the denatured state. All simulations showed early loss of structure along the β5-β6 edge of the β-sandwich, supporting earlier findings of instability in this region. Transition state structures identified from the simulations are in good agreement with experiment, providing detailed, validated molecular models for this elusive state. Furthermore, we compare the process of thermal unfolding investigated here to that of the lethal A4V mutant-induced unfolding at physiological temperature and find that the pathways are very similar.


ALS; SOD1; misfolding; molecular dynamics; unfolding

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