3D domain swapping, protein oligomerization, and amyloid formation

M Jaskólski
Acta Biochimica Polonica 2001, 48 (4): 807-27
In 3D domain swapping, first described by Eisenberg, a structural element of a monomeric protein is replaced by the same element from another subunit. This process requires partial unfolding of the closed monomers that is then followed by adhesion and reconstruction of the original fold but from elements contributed by different subunits. If the interactions are reciprocal, a closed-ended dimer will be formed, but the same phenomenon has been suggested as a mechanism for the formation of open-ended polymers as well, such as those believed to exist in amyloid fibrils. There has been a rapid progress in the study of 3D domain swapping. Oligomers higher than dimers have been found, the monomer-dimer equilibrium could be controlled by mutations in the hinge element of the chain, a single protein has been shown to form more than one domain-swapped structure, and recently, the possibility of simultaneous exchange of two structural domains by a single molecule has been demonstrated. This last discovery has an important bearing on the possibility that 3D domain swapping might be indeed an amyloidogenic mechanism. Along the same lines is the discovery that a protein of proven amyloidogenic properties, human cystatin C, is capable of 3D domain swapping that leads to oligomerization. The structure of domain-swapped human cystatin C dimers explains why a naturally occurring mutant of this protein has a much higher propensity for aggregation, and also suggests how this same mechanism of 3D domain swapping could lead to an open-ended polymer that would be consistent with the cross-beta structure, which is believed to be at the heart of the molecular architecture of amyloid fibrils.

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