Drivers of α-Sheet Formation in Transthyretin under Amyloidogenic Conditions.Biochemistry 2019; 58(44):4408-4423B
Amyloid diseases make up a set of fatal disorders in which proteins aggregate to form fibrils that deposit in tissues throughout the body. Amyloid-associated diseases are challenging to study because amyloid formation occurs on time scales that span several orders of magnitude and involve heterogeneous, interconverting protein conformations. The development of more effective technologies to diagnose and treat amyloid disease requires both a map of the conformations sampled during amyloidogenesis and an understanding of the molecular mechanisms that drive this process. In prior molecular dynamics simulations of amyloid proteins, we observed the formation of a nonstandard type of secondary structure, called α-sheet, that we proposed is associated with the pathogenic conformers in amyloid disease, the soluble oligomers. However, the detailed molecular interactions that drive the conversion to α-sheet remain elusive. Here we use molecular dynamics simulations to interrogate a critical event in transthyretin aggregation, the formation of aggregation-competent, monomeric species. We show that conformational changes in one of the two β-sheets in transthyretin enable solvent molecules and polar side chains to form electrostatic interactions with main-chain peptide groups to facilitate and modulate conversion to α-sheet secondary structure. Our results shed light on the early conformational changes that drive transthyretin toward the α-sheet structure associated with toxicity. Delineation of the molecular events that lead to aggregation at atomic resolution can aid strategies to target the early, critical toxic soluble oligomers.