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J Am Chem Soc. 2015 Jan 14;137(1):22-5. doi: 10.1021/ja5093634. Epub 2014 Dec 22.

Structure of a functional amyloid protein subunit computed using sequence variation.

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Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen , Blegdamsvej 17, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark.


Functional amyloid fibers, called curli, play a critical role in adhesion and invasion of many bacteria. Unlike pathological amyloids, curli structures are formed by polypeptide sequences whose amyloid structure has been selected for during evolution. This important distinction provides us with an opportunity to obtain structural insights from an unexpected source: the covariation of amino acids in sequences of different curli proteins. We used recently developed methods to extract amino acid contacts from a multiple sequence alignment of homologues of the curli subunit protein, CsgA. Together with an efficient force field, these contacts allow us to determine structural models of CsgA. We find that CsgA forms a β-helical structure, where each turn corresponds to previously identified repeat sequences in CsgA. The proposed structure is validated by previously measured solid-state NMR, electron microscopy, and X-ray diffraction data and agrees with an earlier proposed model derived by complementary means.

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