Detection and characterization of aggregates, prefibrillar amyloidogenic oligomers, and protofibrils using fluorescence spectroscopy.
ABSTRACT: Transthyretin (TTR) is a protein linked to a number of different amyloid diseases including senile systemic amyloidosis and familial amyloidotic polyneuropathy. The transient nature of oligomeric intermediates of misfolded TTR that later mature into fibrillar aggregates makes them hard to study, and methods to study these species are sparse. In this work we explore a novel pathway for generation of prefibrillar aggregates of TTR, which provides important insight into TTR misfolding. Prefibrillar amyloidogenic oligomers and protofibrils of misfolded TTR were generated in vitro through induction of the molten globule type A-state from acid unfolded TTR through the addition of NaCl. The aggregation process produced fairly monodisperse oligomers (300-500 kD) within 2 h that matured after 20 h into larger spherical clusters (30-50 nm in diameter) and protofibrils as shown by transmission electron microscopy. Further maturation of the aggregates showed shrinkage of the spheres as the fibrils grew in length, suggesting a conformational change of the spheres into more rigid structures. The structural and physicochemical characteristics of the aggregates were investigated using fluorescence, circular dichroism, chemical cross-linking, and transmission electron microscopy. The fluorescent dyes 1-anilinonaphthalene-8-sulfonate (ANS), 4-4-bis-1-phenylamino-8-naphthalene sulfonate (Bis-ANS), 4-(dicyanovinyl)-julolidine (DCVJ), and thioflavin T (ThT) were employed in both static and kinetic assays to characterize these oligomeric and protofibrillar states using both steady-state and time-resolved fluorescence techniques. DCVJ, a molecular rotor, was employed for the first time for studies of an amyloidogenic process and is shown useful for detection of the early steps of the oligomerization process. DCVJ bound to the early prefibrillar oligomers (300-500 kD) with an apparent dissociation constant of 1.6 muM, which was slightly better than for ThT (6.8 muM). Time-resolved fluorescence anisotropy decay of ANS was shown to be a useful tool for giving further structural and kinetic information of the oligomeric aggregates. ThT dramatically increases its fluorescence quantum yield when bound to amyloid fibrils; however, the mechanism behind this property is unknown. Data from this work suggest that unbound ThT is also intrinsically quenched and functions similarly to a molecular rotor, which in combination with its environmental dependence provides a blue shift to the characteristic 482 nm wavelength when bound to amyloid fibrils.
Project description:In Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other neurodegenerative disorders, proteins accumulate into ordered aggregates, called amyloids. Recent evidence suggests that these structures include both large, insoluble fibrils and smaller, prefibrillar structures, such as dimers, oligomers, and protofibrils. Recently, focus has shifted to the prefibrillar aggregates because they are highly neurotoxic and their levels appear to correlate with cognitive impairment. Thus, there is interest in finding methods for specifically quantifying these structures. One of the classic ways of detecting amyloid formation is through the fluorescence of the benzothiazole dye, thioflavin T (ThT). This reagent has been a "workhorse" of the amyloid field because it is robust and inexpensive. However, one of its limitations is that it does not distinguish between prefibrillar and fibrillar aggregates. We screened a library of 37 indoles for those that selectively change fluorescence in the presence of prefibrillar amyloid-beta (Abeta). From this process, we selected the most promising example, tryptophanol (TROL), to use in a quantitative "thioflavin-like" assay. Using this probe in combination with electron microscopy, we found that prefibrils are largely depleted during Abeta aggregation in vitro but that they remain present after the apparent saturation of the ThT signal. These results suggest that a combination of TROL and ThT provides greater insight into the process of amyloid formation by Abeta. In addition, we found that TROL also recognizes other amyloid-prone proteins, including ataxin-3, amylin, and CsgA. Thus, this assay might be an inexpensive spectroscopic method for quantifying amyloid prefibrils in vitro.
Project description:The fibrillation propensity of the multidomain protein human serum albumin (HSA) was analyzed under different solution conditions. The aggregation kinetics, protein conformational changes upon self-assembly, and structure of the different intermediates on the fibrillation pathway were determined by means of thioflavin T (ThT) fluorescence and Congo Red absorbance; far- and near-ultraviolet circular dichroism; tryptophan fluorescence; Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy; x-ray diffraction; and transmission electron, scanning electron, atomic force, and microscopies. HSA fibrillation extends over several days of incubation without the presence of a lag phase, except for HSA samples incubated at acidic pH and room temperature in the absence of electrolyte. The absence of a lag phase occurs if the initial aggregation is a downhill process that does not require a highly organized and unstable nucleus. The fibrillation process is accompanied by a progressive increase in the beta-sheet (up to 26%) and unordered conformation at the expense of alpha-helical conformation, as revealed by ThT fluorescence and circular dichroism and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopies, but changes in the secondary structure contents depend on solution conditions. These changes also involve the presence of different structural intermediates in the aggregation pathway, such as oligomeric clusters (globules), bead-like structures, and ring-shaped aggregates. We suggest that fibril formation may take place through the role of association-competent oligomeric intermediates, resulting in a kinetic pathway via clustering of these oligomeric species to yield protofibrils and then fibrils. The resultant fibrils are elongated but curly, and differ in length depending on solution conditions. Under acidic conditions, circular fibrils are commonly observed if the fibrils are sufficiently flexible and long enough for the ends to find themselves regularly in close proximity to each other. These fibrils can be formed by an antiparallel arrangement of beta-strands forming the beta-sheet structure of the HSA fibrils as the most probable configuration. Very long incubation times lead to a more complex morphological variability of amyloid mature fibrils (i.e., long straight fibrils, flat-ribbon structures, laterally connected fibers, etc.). We also observed that mature straight fibrils can also grow by protein oligomers tending to align within the immediate vicinity of the fibers. This filament + monomers/oligomers scenario is an alternative pathway to the otherwise dominant filament + filament manner of the protein fibril's lateral growth. Conformational preferences for a certain pathway to become active may exist, and the influence of environmental conditions such as pH, temperature, and salt must be considered.
Project description:The traditional approach to investigating the partial unfolding and fibrillation of insulin, and proteins at large, has involved use of the dyes 1-anilinonaphthalene-8-sulphonic acid (ANS) and Thioflavin T (ThT), respectively. We compare the kinetic profiles of ThT, ANS, light scattering, and intrinsic Tyr fluorescence during insulin fibrillation. The data reveal that the sequence of structural changes (dimers --> monomers --> partially unfolded monomers --> oligomeric aggregates --> fibrils) accompanying insulin fibrillation can be detected directly using intrinsic Tyr fluorescence. The results indicate that at least two distinguishable structural intermediates precede fibril development. There is no evidence of tyrosinate or dityrosine during insulin aggregation. Obtaining such critical information from the protein itself is complementary to existing aggregation probes and affords the advantage of directly examining structural changes that occur at the molecular level, providing concrete details of the early events preceding fibrillation.
Project description:Transforming growth factor beta-induced protein (TGFBIp) aggregates into the phenotypic amyloid fibrils and/or non-amyloid deposits in corneal dystrophies and other disorders. While significant progress has been made in molecular genetics to successfully establish the link between the missense mutations of TGFBI and TGFBIp-related corneal dystrophies, the underlying mechanism for the abnormal aggregation remains elusive due to the lack of insights into the conformational perturbations induced by mutations. In the present study, we examined the effects of denaturants and a co-solvent on recombinant TGFBIp, with a focus on protein conformational changes and amyloid fibril formation.Recombinant TGFBIp was subjected to various spectroscopic studies, such as far-ultraviolet circular dichroism (far-UV CD), intrinsic tryptophan fluorescence and quenching, and 1-anilinonaphthalene-8-sulfonic acid (ANS) fluorescence, under various denaturing conditions (urea and guanidine hydrochloride [GndHCl], acidic pH, and trifluoroethanol [TFE, co-solvent]). A thioflavin T (ThT) fluorescence assay was used to determine the fibril formation of TGFBIp. In addition, a rabbit polyclonal antibody against the oligomer precursors that initiate the formation of amyloid fibrils was also used in dot blot experiments to detect the formation of prefibrillar precursors.The purified recombinant TGFBIp is in the folded state according to its intrinsic tryptophan fluorescence analyses. A single-step unfolding process was observed in the GndHCl denaturation experiment. Results from far-UV CD, intrinsic tryptophan fluorescence, and ANS fluorescence experiments showed that TFE exerted its solvent effects by initially unfolding and transforming TGFBIp to a beta-sheet-enriched conformer at 20%. When increased to 40%, TFE changed TGFBIp into a non-native alpha-helix conformer. Although GndHCl and TFE led to protein unfolding, enhanced fibril formation could only be observed in the presence of TFE and at acidic pH, according to the ThT fluorescence assays. The paradigmatic protofibrillar TGFBIp oligomers were also detected during the fibril formation by the dot blot experiment.Our results suggest that protein unfolding may serve as the prerequisite but is not sufficient for the fibrillogenesis. Other factors, such as the solvent used, fragmentation, or pH, may also be crucial for the formation of TGFBIp fibrils.
Project description:Misfolding and aggregation of amyloid ?1-42 peptide (A?1-42) play a central role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Targeting the highly cytotoxic oligomeric species formed during the early stages of the aggregation process represents a promising therapeutic strategy to reduce the toxicity associated with A?1-42. Currently, the thioflavin?T (ThT) assay is the only established spectrofluorometric method to screen aggregation inhibitors. The success of the ThT assay is that it can detect A?1-42 aggregates with high ?-sheet content, such as protofibrils or fibrils, which appear in the late aggregation steps. Unfortunately, by using the ThT assay, the detection of inhibitors of early soluble oligomers that present a low ?-sheet character is challenging. Herein, a new, facile, and robust boron-dipyrromethene (BODIPY) real-time assay suitable for 96-well plate format, which allows screening of compounds as selective inhibitors of the formation of A?1-42 oligomers, is reported. These inhibitors decrease the cellular toxicity of A?1-42, although they fail in the ThT assay. The findings have been confirmed and validated by structural analysis and cell viability assays under comparable experimental conditions. It is demonstrated that the BODIPY assay is a convenient method to screen and discover new candidate compounds that slow down or stop the pathological early oligomerization process and are active in the cellular assay. Therefore, it is a suitable complementary screening method of the current ThT assay.
Project description:Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) is a multifunctional enzyme that has been associated with neurodegenerative diseases. GAPDH colocalizes with α-synuclein in amyloid aggregates in post-mortem tissue of patients with sporadic Parkinson disease and promotes the formation of Lewy body-like inclusions in cell culture. In a previous work, we showed that glycosaminoglycan-induced GAPDH prefibrillar species accelerate the conversion of α-synuclein to fibrils. However, it remains to be determined whether the interplay among glycosaminoglycans, GAPDH, and α-synuclein has a role in pathological states. Here, we demonstrate that the toxic effect exerted by α-synuclein oligomers in dopaminergic cell culture is abolished in the presence of GAPDH prefibrillar species. Structural analysis of prefibrillar GAPDH performed by small angle x-ray scattering showed a particle compatible with a protofibril. This protofibril is shaped as a cylinder 22 nm long and a cross-section diameter of 12 nm. Using biocomputational techniques, we obtained the first all-atom model of the GAPDH protofibril, which was validated by cross-linking coupled to mass spectrometry experiments. Because GAPDH can be secreted outside the cell where glycosaminoglycans are present, it seems plausible that GAPDH protofibrils could be assembled in the extracellular space kidnapping α-synuclein toxic oligomers. Thus, the role of GAPDH protofibrils in neuronal proteostasis must be considered. The data reported here could open alternative ways in the development of therapeutic strategies against synucleinopathies like Parkinson disease.
Project description:The transition of amyloidogenic species into ordered structures (i.e., prefibrillar oligomers, protofibrils, mature fibrils, and amyloidogenic aggregates) is closely associated with many neurodegenerative disease pathologies. It is increasingly appreciated that the liquid-solid interface contributes to peptide aggregation under physiological conditions. However, much remains to be explored on the molecular mechanism of surface-directed amyloid formation. We herein demonstrate that physical environmental conditions (i.e., negatively charged surface) affect amyloid formation. Nontoxic amyloid aggregates quickly develop into intertwisting fibrils on a negatively charged mica surface. These fibrillar structures show significant cytotoxicity on both neuroblastoma cell-lines (SH-SY5Y) and primary neural stem cells. Our results suggest an alternative amyloid development pathway, following which A? peptides form large amyloidogenic aggregates upon stimulation, and later transit into neurotoxic fibrillar structures while being trapped and aligned by a negatively charged surface. Conceivably, the interplay between chemical and physical environmental conditions plays important roles in the development of neurodegenerative diseases.
Project description:The equilibrium unfolding at neutral pH of the third PDZ domain of PSD95, as followed by DSC, is characterized by the presence of an equilibrium intermediate with clear signs of oligomerization. DLS and SEC measurements indicate that at 60-70 degrees C small oligomers populate, showing a typical beta-sheet far-UV CD spectrum. These intermediate species lead to the formation of rodlike particulates of approximately 12 nm, which remain in solution after 2 weeks incubation and grow until they adopt annular/spherical shapes of approximately 50 nm and protofibrils, which are subsequently fully transformed into fibrils. The fibrils can also disaggregate after the addition of 1:1 buffer dilution followed by cooling to room temperature, thus returning to the initial monomeric state. Growth kinetics, as shown by ThT and ANS fluorescence, show that the organization of the different supramacromolecular structures comes from a common nucleation unit, the small oligomers, which organize themselves before reaching the incubation temperature of 60 degrees C. Our experiments point toward the existence of a well-defined reversible, stepwise, and downhill organization of the processes involved in the association-dissociation of the intermediate. We estimate the enthalpy change accompanying the association-dissociation equilibria to be 130 kJ x mol(-1). Furthermore, the coalescence under essentially reversible conditions of different kinds of supramacromolecular assemblies renders this protein system highly interesting for biophysical studies aimed at our further understanding of amyloid pathological conditions.
Project description:The interconversion of monomers, oligomers, and amyloid fibrils of the amyloid-? peptide (A?) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease. The determination of the kinetics of the individual association and dissociation reactions is hampered by the fact that forward and reverse reactions to/from different aggregation states occur simultaneously. Here, we report the kinetics of dissociation of A? monomers from protofibrils, prefibrillar high molecular weight oligomers previously shown to possess pronounced neurotoxicity. An engineered binding protein sequestering specifically monomeric A? was employed to follow protofibril dissociation by tryptophan fluorescence, precluding confounding effects of reverse or competing reactions. A? protofibril dissociation into monomers follows exponential decay kinetics with a time constant of ?2 h at 25 °C and an activation energy of 80 kJ/mol, values typical for high affinity biomolecular interactions. This study demonstrates the high kinetic stability of A? protofibrils toward dissociation into monomers and supports the delineation of the A? folding and assembly energy landscape.
Project description:Several protein conformational disorders (Parkinson and prion diseases) are linked to aberrant folding of proteins into prefibrillar oligomers and amyloid fibrils. Although prefibrillar oligomers are more toxic than their fibrillar counterparts, it is difficult to decouple the origin of their dissimilar toxicity because oligomers and fibrils differ both in terms of structure and size. Here we report the characterization of two oligomers of the 42-residue amyloid ? (A?42) peptide associated with Alzheimer disease that possess similar size and dissimilar toxicity. We find that A?42 spontaneously forms prefibrillar oligomers at A? concentrations below 30 ?m in the absence of agitation, whereas higher A? concentrations lead to rapid formation of fibrils. Interestingly, A? prefibrillar oligomers do not convert into fibrils under quiescent assembly conditions but instead convert into a second type of oligomer with size and morphology similar to those of A? prefibrillar oligomers. Strikingly, this alternative A? oligomer is non-toxic to mammalian cells relative to A? monomer. We find that two hydrophobic peptide segments within A? (residues 16-22 and 30-42) are more solvent-exposed in the more toxic A? oligomer. The less toxic oligomer is devoid of ?-sheet structure, insoluble, and non-immunoreactive with oligomer- and fibril-specific antibodies. Moreover, the less toxic oligomer is incapable of disrupting lipid bilayers, in contrast to its more toxic oligomeric counterpart. Our results suggest that the ability of non-fibrillar A? oligomers to interact with and disrupt cellular membranes is linked to the degree of solvent exposure of their central and C-terminal hydrophobic peptide segments.