A cyclic peptide inhibitor of apoC-II peptide fibril formation: mechanistic insight from NMR and molecular dynamics analysis

Michael D W Griffin, Levi Yeung, Andrew Hung, Nevena Todorova, Yee-Foong Mok, John A Karas, Paul R Gooley, Irene Yarovsky, Geoffrey J Howlett
Journal of Molecular Biology 2012 March 9, 416 (5): 642-55
The misfolding and aggregation of proteins to form amyloid fibrils is a characteristic feature of several common age-related diseases. Agents that directly inhibit formation of amyloid fibrils represent one approach to combating these diseases. We have investigated the potential of a cyclic peptide to inhibit fibril formation by fibrillogenic peptides from human apolipoprotein C-II (apoC-II). Cyc[60-70] was formed by disulfide cross-linking of cysteine residues added to the termini of the fibrillogenic peptide comprising apoC-II residues 60-70. This cyclic peptide did not self-associate into fibrils. However, substoichiometric concentrations of cyc[60-70] significantly delayed fibril formation by the fibrillogenic, linear peptides apoC-II[60-70] and apoC-II[56-76]. Reduction of the disulfide bond or scrambling the amino acid sequence within cyc[60-70] significantly impaired its inhibitory activity. The solution structure of cyc[60-70] was solved using NMR spectroscopy, revealing a well-defined structure comprising a hydrophilic face and a more hydrophobic face containing the Met60, Tyr63, Ile66 and Phe67 side chains. Molecular dynamics (MD) studies identified a flexible central region within cyc[60-70], while MD simulations of "scrambled" cyc[60-70] indicated an increased formation of intramolecular hydrogen bonds and a reduction in the overall flexibility of the peptide. Our structural studies suggest that the inhibitory activity of cyc[60-70] is mediated by an elongated structure with inherent flexibility and distinct hydrophobic and hydrophilic faces, enabling cyc[60-70] to interact transiently with fibrillogenic peptides and inhibit fibril assembly. These results suggest that cyclic peptides based on amyloidogenic core peptides could be useful as specific inhibitors of amyloid fibril formation.

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