Location trumps length: polyglutamine-mediated changes in folding and aggregation of a host protein.
ABSTRACT: Expanded CAG diseases are progressive neurodegenerative disorders in which specific proteins have an unusually long polyglutamine stretch. Although these proteins share no other sequence or structural homologies, they all aggregate into intracellular inclusions that are believed to be pathological. We sought to determine what impact the position and number of glutamines have on the structure and aggregation of the host protein, apomyoglobin. Variable-length polyQ tracts were inserted either into the loop between the C- and D-helices (Q(n)CD) or at the N-terminus (Q(n)NT). The Q(n)CD mutants lost some ?-helix and gained unordered and/or ?-sheet in a length-dependent manner. These mutants were partially unfolded and rapidly assembled into soluble chain-like oligomers. In sharp contrast, the Q(n)NT mutants largely retained wild-type tertiary structure but associated into long, fibrillar aggregates. Control proteins with glycine-serine repeats (GS(8)CD and GS(8)NT) were produced. GS(8)CD exhibited similar structural perturbations and aggregation characteristics to an analogously sized Q(16)CD, indicating that the observed effects are independent of amino acid composition. In contrast to Q(16)NT, GS(8)NT did not form fibrillar aggregates. Thus, soluble oligomers are produced through structural perturbation and do not require polyQ, whereas classic fibrils arise from specific polyQ intermolecular interactions in the absence of misfolding.
Project description:Huntington's disease is caused by the expansion of a polyglutamine (polyQ) tract in the N-terminal exon of huntingtin (HttEx1), but the cellular mechanisms leading to neurodegeneration remain poorly understood. Here we present in situ structural studies by cryo-electron tomography of an established yeast model system of polyQ toxicity. We find that expression of polyQ-expanded HttEx1 results in the formation of unstructured inclusion bodies and in some cases fibrillar aggregates. This contrasts with recent findings in mammalian cells, where polyQ inclusions were exclusively fibrillar. In yeast, polyQ toxicity correlates with alterations in mitochondrial and lipid droplet morphology, which do not arise from physical interactions with inclusions or fibrils. Quantitative proteomic analysis shows that polyQ aggregates sequester numerous cellular proteins and cause a major change in proteome composition, most significantly in proteins related to energy metabolism. Thus, our data point to a multifaceted toxic gain-of-function of polyQ aggregates, driven by sequestration of endogenous proteins and mitochondrial and lipid droplet dysfunction.
Project description:In Huntington's disease, expansion of a polyglutamine (polyQ) domain in the huntingtin (htt) protein leads to misfolding and aggregation. There is much interest in the molecular features that distinguish monomeric, oligomeric, and fibrillar species that populate the aggregation pathway and likely differ in cytotoxicity. The mechanism and rate of aggregation are greatly affected by the domains flanking the polyQ segment within exon 1 of htt. A "protective" C-terminal proline-rich flanking domain inhibits aggregation by inducing polyproline II structure (PPII) within an extended portion of polyQ. The N-terminal flanking segment (htt(NT)) adopts an ?-helical structure as it drives aggregation, helps stabilize oligomers and fibrils, and is seemingly integral to their supramolecular assembly. Via solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (ssNMR), we probe how, in the mature fibrils, the htt flanking domains impact the polyQ domain and in particular the localization of the ?-structured amyloid core. Using residue-specific and uniformly labeled samples, we find that the amyloid core occupies most of the polyQ domain but ends just prior to the prolines. We probe the structural and dynamical features of the remarkably abrupt ?-sheet to PPII transition and discuss the potential connections to certain htt-binding proteins. We also examine the htt(NT) ?-helix outside the polyQ amyloid core. Despite its presumed structural and demonstrated stabilizing roles in the fibrils, quantitative ssNMR measurements of residue-specific dynamics show that it undergoes distinct solvent-coupled motion. This dynamical feature seems reminiscent of molten-globule-like ?-helix-rich features attributed to the nonfibrillar oligomeric species of various amyloidogenic proteins.
Project description:Huntington disease (HD) is caused by an expansion of more than 35-40 polyglutamine (polyQ) repeats in the huntingtin (htt) protein, resulting in accumulation of inclusion bodies containing fibrillar deposits of mutant htt fragments. Intriguingly, polyQ length is directly proportional to the propensity for htt to form fibrils and the severity of HD and is inversely correlated with age of onset. Although the structural basis for htt toxicity is unclear, the formation, abundance, and/or persistence of toxic conformers mediating neuronal dysfunction and degeneration in HD must also depend on polyQ length. Here we used atomic force microscopy to demonstrate mutant htt fragments and synthetic polyQ peptides form oligomers in a polyQ length-dependent manner. By time-lapse atomic force microscopy, oligomers form before fibrils, are transient in nature, and are occasionally direct precursors to fibrils. However, the vast majority of fibrils appear to form by monomer addition coinciding with the disappearance of oligomers. Thus, oligomers must undergo a major structural transition preceding fibril formation. In an immortalized striatal cell line and in brain homogenates from a mouse model of HD, a mutant htt fragment formed oligomers in a polyQ length-dependent manner that were similar in size to those formed in vitro, although these structures accumulated over time in vivo. Finally, using immunoelectron microscopy, we detected oligomeric-like structures in human HD brains. These results demonstrate that oligomer formation by a mutant htt fragment is strongly polyQ length-dependent in vitro and in vivo, consistent with a causative role for these structures, or subsets of these structures, in HD pathogenesis.
Project description:The presence of expanded poly-glutamine (polyQ) repeats in proteins is directly linked to the pathogenesis of several neurodegenerative diseases, including Huntington's disease. However, the molecular and structural basis underlying the increased toxicity of aggregates formed by proteins containing expanded polyQ repeats remain poorly understood, in part due to the size and morphological heterogeneity of the aggregates they form in vitro. To address this knowledge gap and technical limitations, we investigated the structural, mechanical and morphological properties of fibrillar aggregates at the single molecule and nanometer scale using the first exon of the Huntingtin protein as a model system (Exon1). Our findings demonstrate a direct correlation of the morphological and mechanical properties of Exon1 aggregates with their structural organization at the single aggregate and nanometric scale and provide novel insights into the molecular and structural basis of Huntingtin Exon1 aggregation and toxicity.
Project description:The pathogenesis of most neurodegenerative diseases, including transmissible diseases like prion encephalopathy, inherited disorders like Huntington disease, and sporadic diseases like Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases, is intimately linked to the formation of fibrillar protein aggregates. It is becoming increasingly appreciated that prion-like intercellular transmission of protein aggregates can contribute to the stereotypical spread of disease pathology within the brain, but the mechanisms underlying the binding and uptake of protein aggregates by mammalian cells are largely uninvestigated. We have investigated the properties of polyglutamine (polyQ) aggregates that endow them with the ability to bind to mammalian cells in culture and the properties of the cell surface that facilitate such uptake. Binding and internalization of polyQ aggregates are common features of mammalian cells and depend upon both trypsin-sensitive and trypsin-resistant saturable sites on the cell surface, suggesting the involvement of cell surface proteins in this process. polyQ aggregate binding depends upon the presence of a fibrillar amyloid-like structure and does not depend upon electrostatic interaction of fibrils with the cell surface. Sequences in the huntingtin protein that flank the amyloid-forming polyQ tract also influence the extent to which aggregates are able to bind to cell surfaces.
Project description:In polyglutamine (polyQ) containing fragments of the Huntington's disease protein huntingtin (htt), the N-terminal 17 amino acid htt(NT) segment serves as the core of ?-helical oligomers whose reversible assembly locally concentrates the polyQ segments, thereby facilitating polyQ amyloid nucleation. A variety of aggregation inhibitors have been described that achieve their effects by neutralizing this concentrating function of the htt(NT) segment. In this paper we characterize the nature and limits of this inhibition for three means of suppressing htt(NT)-mediated aggregation. We show that the previously described action of htt(NT) peptide-based inhibitors is solely due to their ability to suppress the htt(NT)-mediated aggregation pathway. That is, under htt(NT) inhibition, nucleation of polyQ amyloid formation by a previously described alternative nucleation mechanism proceeds unabated and transiently dominates the aggregation process. Removal of the bulk of the htt(NT) segment by proteolysis or mutagenesis also blocks the htt(NT)-mediated pathway, allowing the alternative nucleation pathway to dominate. In contrast, the previously described immunoglobulin-based inhibitor, the antihtt(NT) V(L) 12.3 protein, effectively blocks both amyloid pathways, leading to stable accumulation of nonamyloid oligomers. These data show that the htt(NT)-dependent and -independent pathways of amyloid nucleation in polyQ-containing htt fragments are in direct kinetic competition. The results illustrate how amyloid polymorphism depends on assembly mechanism and kinetics and have implications for how the intracellular environment can influence aggregation pathways.
Project description:Lipid membranes are suggested as the primary target of amyloid aggregates. We study aggregates formed by a polyglutamine (polyQ) peptide, and their disruptive effect on lipid membranes. Using solution atomic force microscopy (AFM), we observe polyQ oligomers coexisting with short fibrils, which have a twisted morphology that likely corresponds to two intertwined oligomer strings. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy reveals that the content of ?-sheet enriched aggregates increases with incubation time. Using fluorescence microscopy, we find that exposure to polyQ aggregates results in deflated morphology of giant unilamellar vesicles. PolyQ aggregates induced membrane disruption is further substantiated by time-dependent calcein leakage from the interior to the exterior of lipid vesicles. Detailed structural and mechanical perturbations of lipid membranes are revealed by solution AFM. We find that membrane disruption by polyQ aggregates proceeds by a two-step process, involving partial and full disruption. In addition to height contrast, the resulting partially and fully disrupted bilayers have distinct rigidity and adhesion force properties compared to the intact bilayer. Specifically, the bilayer rigidity increases as the intact bilayer becomes partially and fully disrupted. Surprisingly, the adhesion force first decreases and then increases during the disruption process. By resolving individual fibrils deposited on bilayer surface, we show that both the length and the number of fibrils can increase with incubation time. Our results highlight that membrane disruption could be the molecular basis of polyQ aggregates induced cytotoxicity.
Project description:The identities of toxic aggregate species in Huntington's disease pathogenesis remain ambiguous. While polyQ-expanded huntingtin (Htt) is known to accumulate in compact inclusion bodies inside neurons, this is widely thought to be a protective coping response that sequesters misfolded conformations or aggregated states of the mutated protein. To define the spatial distributions of fluorescently-labeled Htt-exon1 species in the cell model PC12m, we employed highly sensitive single-molecule super-resolution fluorescence imaging. In addition to inclusion bodies and the diffuse pool of monomers and oligomers, fibrillar aggregates -100?nm in diameter and up to -1-2 µm in length were observed for pathogenic polyQ tracts (46 and 97 repeats) after targeted photo-bleaching of the inclusion bodies. These short structures bear a striking resemblance to fibers described in vitro. Definition of the diverse Htt structures in cells will provide an avenue to link the impact of therapeutic agents to aggregate populations and morphologies.
Project description:Although oligomeric intermediates are transiently formed in almost all known amyloid assembly reactions, their mechanistic roles are poorly understood. Recently, we demonstrated a critical role for the 17-amino-acid N-terminus (htt(NT) segment) of huntingtin (htt) in the oligomer-mediated amyloid assembly of htt N-terminal fragments. In this mechanism, the htt(NT) segment forms the ?-helix-rich core of the oligomers, leaving much of the polyglutamine (polyQ) segment disordered and solvent-exposed. Nucleation of amyloid structure occurs within this local high concentration of disordered polyQ. Here we demonstrate the kinetic importance of htt(NT) self-assembly by describing inhibitory htt(NT)-containing peptides that appear to work by targeting nucleation within the oligomer fraction. These molecules inhibit amyloid nucleation by forming mixed oligomers with the htt(NT) domains of polyQ-containing htt N-terminal fragments. In one class of inhibitors, nucleation is passively suppressed due to the reduced local concentration of polyQ within the mixed oligomer. In the other class, nucleation is actively suppressed by a proline-rich polyQ segment covalently attached to htt(NT). Studies with D-amino acid and scrambled sequence versions of htt(NT) suggest that inhibition activity is strongly linked to the propensity of inhibitory peptides to make amphipathic ?-helices. Htt(NT) derivatives with C-terminal cell-penetrating peptide segments also exhibit excellent inhibitory activity. The htt(NT)-based peptides described here, especially those with protease-resistant d-amino acids and/or with cell-penetrating sequences, may prove useful as lead therapeutics for inhibiting the nucleation of amyloid formation in Huntington's disease.
Project description:Intra-cellular tau protein tangles and extra-cellular ?-amyloid plaques are hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease (AD), characterized by the conversion of natively unfolded monomeric protein/peptide into misfolded ?-sheet rich aggregates. Therefore, inhibiting the aggregation cascade or disassembling the pre-formed aggregates becomes a pivotal event in disease treatment. In the present study, we show that Naphthoquinone-Tryptophan hybrids, i.e., NQTrp and Cl-NQTrp significantly disrupted the pre-formed fibrillar aggregates of Tau-derived PHF6 (VQIVYK) peptide and full-length tau protein in vitro, in a dose-dependent manner as evident from ThS assay, CD spectroscopy, and TEM. Molecular dynamics simulation of PHF6 oligomers and fibrils with the Naphthoquinone-Tryptophan hybrids provides a possible structure-function based mechanism-of-action, highlighting the role of hydrophobic interaction and hydrogen bond formation during fibril disassembly. These findings signify the effectiveness of NQTrp and Cl-NQTrp in disassembling fibrillar aggregates and may help in designing novel hybrid molecules for AD treatment.