Author(s): Portillo AM, Krasnoslobodtsev AV, Lyubchenko YL
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Abstract Self-assembly of misfolded proteins into ordered fibrillar structures is a fundamental property of a wide range of proteins and peptides. This property is also linked with the development of various neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Environmental conditions modulate the misfolding and aggregation processes. We used a peptide, CGNNQQNY, from yeast prion protein Sup35, as a model system to address effects of environmental conditions on aggregate formation. The GNNQQNY peptide self-assembles in fibrils with structural features that are similar to amyloidogenic proteins. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) and thioflavin T (ThT) fluorescence assay were employed to follow the aggregation process at various pHs and ionic strengths. We also used single molecule AFM force spectroscopy to probe interactions between the peptides under various conditions. The ThT fluorescence data showed that the peptide aggregates fast at pH values approaching the peptide isoelectric point (pI = 5.3) and the kinetics is 10 times slower at acidic pH (pH 2.0), suggesting that electrostatic interactions contribute to the peptide self-assembly into aggregates. This hypothesis was tested by experiments performed at low (11 mM) and high (150 mM) ionic strengths. Indeed, the aggregation lag time measured at pH 2 at low ionic strength (11 mM) is 195 h, whereas the lag time decreases ~5 times when the ionic strength is increased to 150 mM. At conditions close to the pI value, pH 5.6, the aggregation lag time is 12 ± 6 h under low ionic strength, and there is minimal change to the lag time at 150 mM NaCl. The ionic strength also influences the morphology of aggregates visualized with AFM. In pH 2.0 and at high ionic strength, the aggregates are twofold taller than those formed at low ionic strength. In parallel, AFM force spectroscopy studies revealed minimal contribution of electrostatics to dissociation of transient peptide dimers.
This article was published in J Phys Condens Matter
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy