Computational studies of the structure, dynamics and native content of amyloid-like fibrils of ribonuclease A

Giorgio Colombo, Massimiliano Meli, Alfonso De Simone
Proteins 2008 February 15, 70 (3): 863-72
The characterization at atomic resolution of amyloid-like protein aggregates is one of the fundamental problems of modern biology. In particular, the question whether native-like domains are retained or completely refolded in the amyloid state and the identification of possible mechanisms for macromolecular ordered aggregation represent major unresolved puzzles. To address these issues, in this article we examine the stability, dynamics, and conservation of native-like properties of several models of a previously designed amyloid-like fibril of RNase A (Sambashivan et al., Nature 2005; 437:266-269). Through the use of molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, we have provided molecular-level insights into the role of different parts of the sequence on the stability of fibrils, the collective properties of supramolecular complexes, and the presence of native-like conformations and dynamics in supramolecular aggregates. We have been able to show that within the fibrils the three-dimensional globular domain-swapped units preserve the conformational, dynamical, and hydration properties typical of the monomeric state, providing a rationalization for the experimentally observed catalytic activity of fibrils. The nativeness of the globular domains is not affected by the amyloidogenic stretches, which determine the molecular recognition process underlying aggregation through the formation of a stable steric zipper motif. Moreover, through the study of the hydration features of a single sheet model, we have been able to show that polyglutamine stretches of the domain-swapped ribonuclease tend to minimize the interaction with water in favor of sidechain-sidechain interactions, shedding light on the factors leading to the supramolecular assembly of beta-sheet layers into dry steric zippers.

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