Elucidating the early events of protein aggregation using biophysical techniques
Cole, Harriet Lucy
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Proteins and peptides can convert from their native form into insoluble highly ordered fibrillar aggregates, known as amyloid fibrils. The process of fibrillogenesis is implicated in the pathogenic mechanisms of many diseases and, although mature fibrils are well characterised by a plethora of biophysical techniques, the initiation and early steps remain, to date, ambiguous. Mass spectrometry can provide invaluable insights into these early events as it can identify the low populated and transient oligomeric species present in the lag phase by their mass to charge ratio. Recent evidence has shown that oligomers formed early in the aggregation process are cytotoxic and may additionally be central to the progression of diseases associated with amyloid fibril presence. The hybrid technique of ion mobility mass spectrometry can be employed to provide conformational details of monomeric and multimeric species present and elucidate the presence of oligomers which possess coincident mass to charge ratios. Molecular modelling, in conjunction with experimental results, can suggest probable monomeric and oligomeric structural arrangements. In this thesis three aggregating systems are investigated: amyloidogenic transthyretin fragment (105-115), insulin and two Aβ peptides. Initially amyloidogenic endecapeptide transthyretin (105-115) is studied as it has been widely utilised as a model system for investigating amyloid formation due to its small size. Secondly insulin, a key hormone in metabolic processes, is investigated as extensive research has been carried out into its aggregation into amyloid fibrils. The formation of insulin amyloid fibrils rarely occurs in vivo; however localised amyloidosis at the site of injection and the aggregation of pharmaceutical insulin stocks present problems. Thirdly the aggregation of A β peptides Aβ (1-40) and Aβ (1-42) and their interactions with an aggregation inhibitor, RI-OR2, are characterised. A (1-42), although less commonly produced in vivo, is more cytotoxic and has a faster aggregation mechanism than Aβ (1-40). Both Aβ peptides are implicated in the aetiology of Alzheimer’s disease whilst RI-OR2 has been reported to prevent the production of high molecular weight oligomers, with particular suppression of Aβ (1-42) aggregation.