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Functional Bacterial Amyloids: Understanding Fibrillation, Regulating Biofilm Fibril Formation and Organizing Surface Assemblies

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  • Thorbjørn Vincent Sønderby, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Zahra Najarzadeh
  • ,
  • Daniel Erik Otzen

Functional amyloid is produced by many organisms but is particularly well understood in bacteria, where proteins such as CsgA (E. coli) and FapC (Pseudomonas) are assembled as functional bacterial amyloid (FuBA) on the cell surface in a carefully optimized process. Besides a host of helper proteins, FuBA formation is aided by multiple imperfect repeats which stabilize amyloid and streamline the aggregation mechanism to a fast-track assembly dominated by primary nucleation. These repeats, which are found in variable numbers in Pseudomonas, are most likely the structural core of the fibrils, though we still lack experimental data to determine whether the repeats give rise to β-helix structures via stacked β-hairpins (highly likely for CsgA) or more complicated arrangements (possibly the case for FapC). The response of FuBA fibrillation to denaturants suggests that nucleation and elongation involve equal amounts of folding, but protein chaperones preferentially target nucleation for effective inhibition. Smart peptides can be designed based on these imperfect repeats and modified with various flanking sequences to divert aggregation to less stable structures, leading to a reduction in biofilm formation. Small molecules such as EGCG can also divert FuBA to less organized structures, such as partially-folded oligomeric species, with the same detrimental effect on biofilm. Finally, the strong tendency of FuBA to self-assemble can lead to the formation of very regular two-dimensional amyloid films on structured surfaces such as graphite, which strongly implies future use in biosensors or other nanobiomaterials. In summary, the properties of functional amyloid are a much-needed corrective to the unfortunate association of amyloid with neurodegenerative disease and a testimony to nature’s ability to get the best out of a protein fold.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4080
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

    Research areas

  • bacterial amyloid, biofilm, curli, FapC, imperfect repeats

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