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Critical Influence of Cosolutes and Surfaces on the Assembly of Serpin-Derived Amyloid Fibrils

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Many proteins and peptides self-associate into highly ordered and structurally similar amyloid cross-β aggregates. This fibrillation is critically dependent on properties of the protein and the surrounding environment that alter kinetic and thermodynamic equilibria. Here, we report on dominating surface and solution effects on the fibrillogenic behavior and amyloid assembly of the C-36 peptide, a circulating bioactive peptide from the α1-antitrypsin serine protease inhibitor. C-36 converts from an unstructured peptide to mature amyloid twisted-ribbon fibrils over a few hours when incubated on polystyrene plates under physiological conditions through a pathway dominated by surface-enhanced nucleation. In contrast, in plates with nonbinding surfaces, slow bulk nucleation takes precedence over surface catalysis and leads to fibrillar polymorphism. Fibrillation is strongly ion-sensitive, underlining the interplay between hydrophilic and hydrophobic forces in molecular self-assembly. The addition of exogenous surfaces in the form of silica glass beads and polyanionic heparin molecules potently seeds the amyloid conversion process. In particular, heparin acts as an interacting template that rapidly forces β-sheet aggregation of C-36 to distinct amyloid species within minutes and leads to a more homogeneous fibril population according to solid-state NMR analysis. Heparin's template effect highlights its role in amyloid seeding and homogeneous self-assembly, which applies both in vitro and in vivo, where glycosaminoglycans are strongly associated with amyloid deposits. Our study illustrates the versatile thermodynamic landscape of amyloid formation and highlights how different experimental conditions direct C-36 into distinct macromolecular structures.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiophysical Journal
Pages (from-to)580-596
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2017

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