Molecular Bases of Disease
- Systemic amyloidosis caused by extracellular deposition of insoluble fibrils derived from the pathological aggregation of circulating proteins, such as transthyretin, is a severe and usually fatal condition. Elucidation of the molecular pathogenic mechanism of the disease and discovery of effective therapies still represents a challenging medical issue. The in vitro preparation of amyloid fibrils that exhibit structural and biochemical properties closely similar to those of natural fibrils is central to improving our understanding of the biophysical basis of amyloid formation in vivo and may offer an important tool for drug discovery.
- Systemic amyloidosis is a usually fatal disease caused by extracellular accumulation of abnormal protein fibers, amyloid fibrils, derived by misfolding and aggregation of soluble globular plasma protein precursors. Both WT and genetic variants of the normal plasma protein transthyretin (TTR) form amyloid, but neither the misfolding leading to fibrillogenesis nor the anatomical localization of TTR amyloid deposition are understood. We have previously shown that, under physiological conditions, trypsin cleaves human TTR in a mechano-enzymatic mechanism that generates abundant amyloid fibrils in vitro.
- α-Synuclein (aS) is a protein abundant in presynaptic nerve terminals in Parkinson disease (PD) and is a major component of intracellular Lewy bodies, the pathological hallmark of neurodegenerative disorders such as PD. Accordingly, the relationships between aS structure, its interaction with lipids, and its involvement in neurodegeneration have attracted great interest. Previously, we reported on the interaction of aS with brain polyunsaturated fatty acids, in particular docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
- The amyloidogenic variant of β2-microglobulin, D76N, can readily convert into genuine fibrils under physiological conditions and primes in vitro the fibrillogenesis of the wild-type β2-microglobulin. By Fourier transformed infrared spectroscopy, we have demonstrated that the amyloid transformation of wild-type β2-microglobulin can be induced by the variant only after its complete fibrillar conversion. Our current findings are consistent with preliminary data in which we have shown a seeding effect of fibrils formed from D76N or the natural truncated form of β2-microglobulin lacking the first six N-terminal residues.
- β2-Microglobulin is responsible for systemic amyloidosis affecting patients undergoing long-term hemodialysis. Its genetic variant D76N causes a very rare form of familial systemic amyloidosis. These two types of amyloidoses differ significantly in terms of the tissue localization of deposits and for major pathological features. Considering how the amyloidogenesis of the β2-microglobulin mechanism has been scrutinized in depth for the last three decades, the comparative analysis of molecular and pathological properties of wild type β2-microglobulin and of the D76N variant offers a unique opportunity to critically reconsider the current understanding of the relation between the protein's structural properties and its pathologic behavior.