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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Amyloid β-Protein Monomer Folding: Free-Energy Surfaces Reveal Alloform-Specific Differences

  • Author(s): Yang, M
  • Teplow, DB
  • et al.

Alloform-specific differences in structural dynamics between amyloid β-protein (Aβ) 40 and Aβ42 appear to underlie the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. To elucidate these differences, we performed microsecond timescale replica-exchange molecular dynamics simulations to sample the conformational space of the Aβ monomer and constructed its free-energy surface. We find that neither peptide monomer is unstructured, but rather that each may be described as a unique statistical coil in which five relatively independent folding units exist, comprising residues 1-5, 10-13, 17-22, 28-37, and 39-42, which are connected by four turn structures. The free-energy surfaces of both peptides are characterized by two large basins, comprising conformers with either substantial α-helix or β-sheet content. Conformational transitions within and between these basins are rapid. The two additional hydrophobic residues at the Aβ42 C-terminus, Ile41 and Ala42, significantly increase contacts within the C-terminus, and between the C-terminus and the central hydrophobic cluster (Leu17-Ala21). As a result, the β-structure of Aβ42 is more stable than that of Aβ40, and the conformational equilibrium in Aβ42 shifts towards β-structure. These results suggest that drugs stabilizing α-helical Aβ conformers (or destabilizing the β-sheet state) would block formation of neurotoxic oligomers. The atomic-resolution conformer structures determined in our simulations may serve as useful targets for this purpose. The conformers also provide starting points for simulations of Aβ oligomerization-a process postulated to be the key pathogenetic event in Alzheimer's disease. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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