Assembly of alpha-synuclein fibrils in nanoscale studied by peptide truncation and AFM

Feng Zhang, Xiao-Jing Lin, Li-Na Ji, Hai-Ning Du, Lin Tang, Jian-Hua He, Jun Hu, Hong-Yu Hu
Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 2008 April 4, 368 (2): 388-94
Alpha-synuclein (alpha-Syn) fibrils are the major component of Lewy bodies that are closely associated with the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease, but the mechanism for the fibril assembly remains poorly understood. Here we report using a combination of peptide truncation and atomic force microscopy (AFM) to elucidate the self-assembly and morphology of the alpha-Syn fibrils. The results show that protease K significantly slims the fibrils from the mean height of approximately 6.6 to approximately 4.7 nm, whereas chaotropic denaturant urea completely breaks down the fibrils into small particles. The in situ enzymatic digestion also results in thinning of the fibrils, giving rise to some nicks on the fibrils. Moreover, N- or C-terminally truncated alpha-Syn fragments assemble into thinner filaments with the heights depending on the peptide lengths. A nine-residue peptide corresponding to the homologous GAV-motif sequence can form very thin (approximately 2.2 nm) but long (>1 microm) filaments. Thus, the central sequence of alpha-Syn forms a fibrillar core by cross-beta-structure that is flanked by two flexible termini, and the orientation of the fibril growth is perpendicular to the beta-sheet structures.

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