Assessing the contribution of heterogeneous distributions of oligomers to aggregation mechanisms of polyglutamine peptides

Vitalis A, Pappu RV (2011). Biophys Chem, 159(1):14-23
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Polyglutamine aggregation is associated with neurodegeneration in nine different disorders. The effects of polyglutamine length and peptide concentration on the kinetics of aggregation were previously analyzed using a homogeneous nucleation model that assumes the presence of a single bottleneck along the free energy profile G(n), where n denotes the number of polyglutamine molecules. The observation of stable, soluble oligomers as intermediates along aggregation pathways is refractory to the assumptions of homogeneous nucleation. Furthermore, the analysis of in vitro kinetic data using a specific variant of homogeneous nucleation leads to confounding observations such as fractional and/or negative values for estimates of the critical nucleus size. Here, we show that the homogeneous nucleation model is inherently robust and is unlikely to yield fractional values if the underlying process is strictly homogeneous with a free energy profile G(n) that displays a sharp maximum at n=n*, where n* corresponds to the critical nucleus. Conversely, a model that includes oligomers of different size and different potentials for supporting turnover into fibrils yields estimates of fractional and/or negative nucleus sizes when the kinetic data are analyzed using the assumption of a homogeneous process. This model provides a route to reconcile independent observations of heterogeneous distributions of oligomers and other non-fibrillar aggregates with results obtained from analysis of aggregation kinetics using the assumption of a homogeneous nucleation model. In the new model, the mechanisms of fibril assembly are governed by the relative stabilities of two types of oligomers viz., fibril-competent and fibril-incompetent oligomers, the size of the smallest fibril competent oligomer, and rates for conformational conversion within different oligomers.

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Posted on October 24, 2011
Posted in: HPAN, Neurodegeneration, Publications Authors: