Characterization of a possible amyloidogenic precursor in glutamine-repeat neurodegenerative diseases.
ABSTRACT: Several neurodegenerative diseases are linked to expanded repeats of glutamine residues, which lead to the formation of amyloid fibrils and neuronal death. The length of the repeats correlates with the onset of Huntington's disease, such that healthy individuals have <38 residues and individuals with >38 repeats exhibit symptoms. Because it is difficult to obtain atomic-resolution structural information for poly(l-glutamine) (polyQ) in aqueous solution experimentally, we performed molecular dynamics simulations to investigate the conformational behavior of this homopolymer. In simulations of 20-, 40-, and 80-mer polyQ, we observed the formation of the "alpha-extended chain" conformation, which is characterized by alternating residues in the alpha(L) and alpha(R) conformations to yield a sheet. The structural transition from disordered random-coil conformations to the alpha-extended chain conformation exhibits modest length and temperature dependence, in agreement with the experimental observation that aggregation depends on length and temperature. We propose that fibril formation in polyQ may occur through an alpha-sheet structure, which was proposed by Pauling and Corey. Also, we propose an atomic-resolution model of how the inhibitory peptide QBP1 (polyQ-binding peptide 1) may bind to polyQ in an alpha-extended chain conformation to inhibit fibril formation.
Project description:Polyglutamine (polyQ) extension in the coding sequence of mutant huntingtin causes neuronal degeneration associated with the formation of insoluble polyQ aggregates in Huntington's disease. We constructed an array of CAG/CAA triplet repeats, coding for a range of 25-300 glutamine residues, which was used to generate expression constructs with minimal flanking sequence. Normal-length (25 glutamine residues) polyQ did not aggregate when transfected alone. Remarkably, when co-transfected with extended (100-300 glutamine residues) polyQ tracts, normal-length polyQ-containing peptides were trapped in insoluble detergent-resistant aggregates. Aggregates formed in the cytoplasm but were visible in the nucleus only when a strong nuclear localization signal was present. Intermolecular interactions between polyQ tracts mediated the localization of heterogeneous aggregates into the nucleolus by nucleolin protein. Our results suggest that extended polyQ can interact with cellular polyQ-containing proteins, transport them to ectopic cellular locations, and form heterogeneous polyQ aggregates. We provide evidence for a recruitment mechanism for pathogenesis in the polyQ neurodegenerative disorders. In susceptible cells, extended polyQ tracts in huntingtin might interact with and sequester or deplete certain endogenous polyQ-containing cellular proteins.
Project description:Infrared (IR) spectroscopy has provided considerable insight into the structures, dynamics, and formation mechanisms of amyloid fibrils. IR probes, such as main chain 13C?18O, have been widely employed to obtain site-specific structural information, yet only secondary structures and strand-to-strand arrangements can be probed. Very few nonperturbative IR probes are available to report on the side-chain conformation and environments, which are critical to determining sheet-to-sheet arrangements in steric zippers within amyloids. Polar residues, such as glutamine, contribute significantly to the stability of amyloids and thus are frequently found in core regions of amyloid peptides/proteins. Furthermore, polyglutamine (polyQ) repeats form toxic aggregates in several neurodegenerative diseases. Here we report the synthesis and application of a new nonperturbative IR probe-glutamine side chain 13C?18O. We use side chain 13C?18O labeling and isotope dilution to detect the presence of intermolecularly hydrogen-bonded arrays of glutamine side chains (Gln ladders) in amyloid-forming peptides. Moreover, the line width of the 13C?18O peak is highly sensitive to its local hydration environment. The IR data from side chain labeling allows us to unambiguously determine the sheet-to-sheet arrangement in a short amyloid-forming peptide, GNNQQNY, providing insight that was otherwise inaccessible through main chain labeling. With several different fibril samples, we also show the versatility of this IR probe in studying the structures and aggregation kinetics of amyloids. Finally, we demonstrate the capability of modeling amyloid structures with IR data using the integrative modeling platform (IMP) and the potential of integrating IR with other biophysical methods for more accurate structural modeling. Together, we believe that side chain 13C?18O will complement main chain isotope labeling in future IR studies of amyloids and integrative modeling using IR data will significantly expand the power of IR spectroscopy to elucidate amyloid assemblies.
Project description:Polyglutamine (polyQ) expansion in exon1 (XN1) of the huntingtin protein is linked to Huntington's disease. When the number of glutamines exceeds a threshold of approximately 36-40 repeats, XN1 can readily form amyloid aggregates similar to those associated with disease. Many experiments suggest that misfolding of monomeric XN1 plays an important role in the length-dependent aggregation. Elucidating the misfolding of a XN1 monomer can help determine the molecular mechanism of XN1 aggregation and potentially help develop strategies to inhibit XN1 aggregation. The flanking sequences surrounding the polyQ region can play a critical role in determining the structural rearrangement and aggregation mechanism of XN1. Few experiments have studied XN1 in its entirety, with all flanking regions. To obtain structural insights into the misfolding of XN1 toward amyloid aggregation, we perform molecular dynamics simulations on monomeric XN1 with full flanking regions, a variant missing the polyproline regions, which are hypothesized to prevent aggregation, and an isolated polyQ peptide (Q(n)). For each of these three constructs, we study glutamine repeat lengths of 23, 36, 40 and 47. We find that polyQ peptides have a positive correlation between their probability to form a beta-rich misfolded state and their expansion length. We also find that the flanking regions of XN1 affect its probability to form a beta-rich state compared to the isolated polyQ. Particularly, the polyproline regions form polyproline type II helices and decrease the probability of the polyQ region to form a beta-rich state. Additionally, by lengthening polyQ, the first N-terminal 17 residues are more likely to adopt a beta-sheet conformation rather than an alpha-helix conformation. Therefore, our molecular dynamics study provides a structural insight of XN1 misfolding and elucidates the possible role of the flanking sequences in XN1 aggregation.
Project description:Huntington's disease is a fatal autosomal genetic disorder characterized by an expanded glutamine-coding CAG repeat sequence in the huntingtin (Htt) exon 1 gene. The Htt protein associated with the disease misfolds into toxic oligomers and aggregate fibril structures. Competing models for the misfolding and aggregation phenomena have suggested the role of the Htt-N-terminal region and the CAG trinucleotide repeats (polyQ domain) in affecting aggregation propensities and misfolding. In particular, one model suggests a correlation between structural stability and the emergence of toxic oligomers, whereas a second model proposes that molecular interactions with the extended polyQ domain increase aggregation propensity. In this paper, we computationally explore the potential to reduce Htt aggregation by addressing the aggregation causes outlined in both models. We investigate the mutation landscape of the Htt-N-terminal region and explore amino acid residue mutations that affect its structural stability and hydrophobic interactions with the polyQ domain. Out of the millions of 3-point mutation combinations that we explored, the (L4K E12K K15E) was the most promising mutation combination that addressed aggregation causes in both models. The mutant structure exhibited extreme alpha-helical stability, low amyloidogenicity potential, a hydrophobic residue replacement, and removal of a solvent-inaccessible intermolecular side chain that assists oligomerization.
Project description:Numerous human disorders are associated with the formation of protein fibrils. The fibril-forming capacity of a protein has been found in recent studies to be determined by a short segment of residues that forms a dual beta-sheet, called a steric zipper, in the spine of the fibril. The question arises as to whether a fibril-forming segment, when inserted within the sequence of a globular protein, will invariably cause the protein to form fibrils. Here we investigate this question by inserting the known fibril-forming segment NNQQNY into the globular enzyme, T7 endonuclease I. From earlier studies, we know that in its fibril form, NNQQNY is in an extended conformation. We first found that the inserted NNQQNY stimulates fibril formation of T7 endonuclease I in solution. Thus NNQQNY within T7 endonuclease I can exist in an extended conformation, capable of forming the steric zipper in the core of a fibril. We also found that T7 endonuclease I folds into a decamer that does not form fibrils. We determined the structure of the decamer by X-ray crystallography, finding an unusual oligomer without point group symmetry, and finding that the NNQQNY segments within the decamer adopt two twisted conformations, neither is apparently able to fibrillize. We conclude that twisting of fibril forming sequences from the fully extended conformation, imposed by the context of their placement in proteins, can interfere with fibril formation.
Project description:Polyglutamine (polyQ) amyloid fibrils are observed in disease tissue and have been implicated as toxic agents responsible for neurodegeneration in expanded CAG repeat diseases such as Huntington's disease. Despite intensive efforts, the mechanism of amyloid toxicity remains unknown. As a novel approach to probing polyQ toxicity, we investigate here how some cellular and physical properties of polyQ amyloid vary with the chirality of the glutamine residues in the polyQ. We challenged PC12 cells with small amyloid fibrils composed of either L- or D-polyQ peptides and found that D-fibrils are as cytotoxic as L-fibrils. We also found using fluorescence microscopy that both aggregates effectively seed the aggregation of cell-produced L-polyQ proteins, suggesting a surprising lack of stereochemical restriction in seeded elongation of polyQ amyloid. To investigate this effect further, we studied chemically synthesized D- and L-polyQ in vitro. We found that, as expected, D-polyQ monomers are not recognized by proteins that recognize L-polyQ monomers. However, amyloid fibrils prepared from D-polyQ peptides can efficiently seed the aggregation of L-polyQ monomers in vitro, and vice versa. This result is consistent with our cell results on polyQ recruitment but is inconsistent with previous literature reports on the chiral specificity of amyloid seeding. This chiral cross-seeding can be rationalized by a model for seeded elongation featuring a "rippled ?-sheet" interface between seed fibril and docked monomers of opposite chirality. The lack of chiral discrimination in polyQ amyloid cytotoxicity is consistent with several toxicity mechanisms, including recruitment of cellular polyQ proteins.
Project description:Expanded polyglutamine (polyQ) sequences cause numerous neurodegenerative diseases which are accompanied by the formation of polyQ fibrils. The unique role of glutamines in the aggregation onset is undoubtedly accepted and a lot structural data of the fibrils have been acquired, however side-chain specific structural dynamics inducing oligomerization are not well understood yet. To analyze spectroscopically the nucleation process, we designed various template-assisted glutamine-rich ?-hairpin monomers mimicking the structural motif of a polyQ fibril. In a top-down strategy, we use a template which forms a well-defined stable hairpin in solution, insert polyQ-rich sequences into each strand and monitor the effects of individual glutamines by NMR, CD and IR spectroscopic approaches. The design was further advanced by alternating glutamines with other amino acids (T, W, E, K), thereby enhancing the solubility and increasing the number of cross-strand interacting glutamine side chains. Our spectroscopic studies reveal a decreasing hairpin stability with increased glutamine content and demonstrate the enormous impact of only a few glutamines - far below the disease threshold - to destabilize structure. Furthermore, we could access sub-ms conformational dynamics of monomeric polyQ-rich peptides by laser-excited temperature-jump IR spectroscopy. Both, the increased number of interacting glutamines and higher concentrations are key parameters to induce oligomerization. Concentration-dependent time-resolved IR measurements indicate an additional slower kinetic phase upon oligomer formation. The here presented peptide models enable spectroscopic molecular analyses to distinguish between monomer and oligomer dynamics in the early steps of polyQ fibril formation and in a side-chain specific manner.
Project description:PolyQ peptides teeter between polyproline II (PPII) and beta-sheet conformations. In tandem polyQ-polyP peptides, the polyP segment tips the balance toward PPII, increasing the threshold number of Gln residues needed for fibrillation. To investigate the mechanism of cis-inhibition by flanking polyP segments on polyQ fibrillation, we examined short polyQ, polyP, and tandem polyQ-polyP peptides. These polyQ peptides have only three glutamines and cannot form beta-sheet fibrils. We demonstrate that polyQ-polyP peptides form small, soluble oligomers at high concentrations (as shown by size exclusion chromatography and diffusion coefficient measurements) with PPII structure (as shown by circular dichroism spectroscopy and (3)J(HN-C alpha) constants of Gln residues from constant time correlation spectroscopy NMR). Nuclear Overhauser effect spectroscopy and molecular modeling suggest that self-association of these peptides occurs as a result of both hydrophobic and steric effects. Pro side chains present three methylenes to solvent, favoring self-association of polyP through the hydrophobic effect. Gln side chains, with two methylene groups, can adopt a conformation similar to that of Pro side chains, also permitting self-association through the hydrophobic effect. Furthermore, steric clashes between Gln and Pro side chains to the C-terminal side of the polyQ segment favor adoption of the PPII-like structure in the polyQ segment. The conformational adaptability of the polyQ segment permits the cis-inhibitory effect of polyP segments on fibrillation by the polyQ segments in proteins such as huntingtin.
Project description:The expansion of homopolymeric glutamine (polyQ) or alanine (polyA) repeats in certain proteins owing to genetic mutations induces protein aggregation and toxicity, causing at least 18 human diseases. PolyQ and polyA repeats can also associate in the same proteins, but the general extent of their association in proteomes is unknown. Furthermore, the structural mechanisms by which their expansion causes disease are not well understood, and these repeats are generally thought to misfold upon expansion into aggregation-prone ?-sheet structures like amyloids. However, recent evidence indicates a critical role for coiled-coil (CC) structures in triggering aggregation and toxicity of polyQ-expanded proteins, raising the possibility that polyA repeats may as well form these structures, by themselves or in association with polyQ. We found through bioinformatics screenings that polyA, polyQ and polyQA repeats have a phylogenetically graded association in human and non-human proteomes and associate/overlap with CC domains. Circular dichroism and cross-linking experiments revealed that polyA repeats can form--alone or with polyQ and polyQA--CC structures that increase in stability with polyA length, forming higher-order multimers and polymers in vitro. Using structure-guided mutagenesis, we studied the relevance of polyA CCs to the in vivo aggregation and toxicity of RUNX2--a polyQ/polyA protein associated with cleidocranial dysplasia upon polyA expansion--and found that the stability of its polyQ/polyA CC controls its aggregation, localization and toxicity. These findings indicate that, like polyQ, polyA repeats form CC structures that can trigger protein aggregation and toxicity upon expansion in human genetic diseases.
Project description:There exists strong correlation between the extended polyglutamines (polyQ) within exon-1 of Huntingtin protein (Htt) and age onset of Huntington's disease (HD); however, the underlying molecular mechanism is still poorly understood. Here we apply extensive molecular dynamics simulations to study the folding of Htt-exon-1 across five different polyQ-lengths. We find an increase in secondary structure motifs at longer Q-lengths, including ?-sheet content that seems to contribute to the formation of increasingly compact structures. More strikingly, these longer Q-lengths adopt supercompact structures as evidenced by a surprisingly small power-law scaling exponent (0.22) between the radius-of-gyration and Q-length that is substantially below expected values for compact globule structures (?0.33) and unstructured proteins (?0.50). Hydrogen bond analyses further revealed that the supercompact behavior of polyQ is mainly due to the "glue-like" behavior of glutamine's side chains with significantly more side chain-side chain H-bonds than regular proteins in the Protein Data Bank (PDB). The orientation of the glutamine side chains also tend to be "buried" inside, explaining why polyQ domains are insoluble on their own.