Conformational properties of the aggregation precursor state of HypF-N

Dipartimento di Scienze Biochimiche, Università di Firenze, Viale Morgagni 50, 50134 Firenze, Italy.
Journal of Molecular Biology (Impact Factor: 4.33). 07/2008; 379(3):554-67. DOI: 10.1016/j.jmb.2008.04.002
Source: PubMed


The conversion of specific proteins or protein fragments into insoluble, ordered fibrillar aggregates is a fundamental process in protein chemistry, biology, medicine and biotechnology. As this structural conversion seems to be a property shared by many proteins, understanding the mechanism of this process will be of extreme importance. Here we present a structural characterisation of a conformational state populated at low pH by the N-terminal domain of Escherichia coli HypF. Combining different biophysical and biochemical techniques, including near- and far-UV circular dichroism, intrinsic and 8-anilinonaphthalene-1-sulfonate-derived fluorescence, dynamic light scattering and limited proteolysis, we will show that this state is largely unfolded but contains significant secondary structure and hydrophobic clusters. It also appears to be more compact than a random coil-like state but less organised than a molten globule state. Increase of the total ionic strength of the solution induces aggregation of such a pre-molten globule state into amyloid-like protofibrils, as revealed by thioflavin T fluorescence and atomic force microscopy. These results show that a pre-molten globule state can be, among other possible conformational states, one of the precursor states of amyloid formation. In addition, the possibility of triggering aggregation by modulating the ionic strength of the solution provides one a unique opportunity to study both the initial precursor state and the aggregation process.

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Available from: Silvia Campioni, Mar 21, 2014
    • "HypF-N was expressed in E. coli cells and purified using an affinity chromatography column packed with the HIS-Select Nickel Affinity Gel, as previously described (Campioni et al., 2008). The purified native protein was stored at -80°C in 20 mM Tris, 2 mM DTT, pH 8.0 and used as a control (native HypF-N). "
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    ABSTRACT: A common strategy to study the mechanism of amyloid formation is the characterization of the structure and dynamics of the precursor state, which is in most cases a partially folded protein. Here we investigated the highly dynamic conformational state formed by the protein domain HypF-N at low pH, before aggregation, using fluorescence, circular dichroism, and NMR spectroscopies. The NMR analysis allowed us, in particular, to identify the regions of the sequence that form hydrophobic interactions and adopt an alpha-helical secondary structure in the pH-denatured ensemble. To understand the role that this residual structure plays in the aggregation of this protein, we probed the mechanism of aggregation using protein engineering experiments and thus identified the regions of the sequence of HypF-N that play a critical role in the conversion of this dynamic state into thioflavin T-binding and beta-sheet containing protofibrils. The combination of these two complementary approaches revealed that the aggregation of pH-denatured HypF-N is not structure-dependent, meaning that it is not driven by the regions of the protein that are either less or more protected in the initial partially folded state. It is, by contrast, promoted by discrete protein regions that have the highest intrinsic propensity to aggregate because of their physicochemical properties.
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