Stable polyglutamine dimers can contain β-hairpins with interdigitated side chains - But not α-helices, β-nanotubes, β-pseudohelices, or steric zippers

Markus S. Miettinen*, Luca Monticelli, Praveen Nedumpully-Govindan, Volker Knecht, Zoya Ignatova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A common thread connecting nine fatal neurodegenerative protein aggregation diseases is an abnormally expanded polyglutamine tract found in the respective proteins. Although the structure of this tract in the large mature aggregates is increasingly well described, its structure in the small early aggregates remains largely unknown. As experimental evidence suggests that the most toxic species along the aggregation pathway are the small early ones, developing strategies to alleviate disease pathology calls for understanding the structure of polyglutamine peptides in the early stages of aggregation. Here, we present a criterion, grounded in available experimental data, that allows for using kinetic stability of dimers to assess whether a given polyglutamine conformer can be on the aggregation path. We then demonstrate that this criterion can be assessed using present-day molecular dynamics simulations. We find that although the α-helical conformer of polyglutamine is very stable, dimers of α-helices lack the kinetic stability necessary to support further oligomerization. Dimers of steric zipper, β-nanotube, and β-pseudohelix conformers are also too short-lived to initiate aggregation. The β-hairpin-containing conformers, instead, invariably form very stable dimers when their side chains are interdigitated. Combining these findings with the implications of recent solid-state NMR data on mature fibrils, we propose a possible pathway for the initial stages of polyglutamine aggregation, in which β-hairpin-containing conformers act as templates for fibril formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1721-1728
Number of pages8
JournalBiophysical Journal
Volume106
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2014
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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