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Chem Biol. 1997 Feb;4(2):119-25.

Observation of metastable Abeta amyloid protofibrils by atomic force microscopy.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.



Brain amyloid plaque, a diagnostic feature of Alzheimer's disease (AD), contains an insoluble fibrillar core that is composed primarily of variants of the beta-amyloid protein (Abeta). As Abeta amyloid fibrils may initiate neurodegeneration, the inhibition of fibril formation is a possible therapeutic strategy. Very little is known about the early steps of the process, however.


Atomic force microscopy was used to follow amyloid fibril formation in vitro by the Abeta variants Abeta1-40 and Abeta1-42. Both variants first form small ordered aggregates that grow slowly and then rapidly disappear, while prototypical amyloid fibrils of two discrete morphologies appear. Abeta1-42 aggregates much more rapidly than Abeta1-40, which is consistent with its connection to early-onset AD. We propose that the metastable intermediate species be called Abeta amyloid protofibrils.


Abeta protofibrils are likely to be intermediates in the in vitro assembly of Abeta amyloid fibrils, but their in vivo role has yet to be determined. Numerous reports of a nonfibrillar form of Abeta aggregate in the brains of individuals who are predisposed to AD suggest the existence of a precursor form, possibly the protofibril. Thus, stabilization of Abeta protofibrils may be a useful therapeutic strategy.

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