Transthyretin variants with improved inhibition of β-amyloid aggregation

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Aggregation of β-amyloid (Aβ) is widely believed to cause neuronal dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease. Transthyretin (TTR) binds to Aβ and inhibits its aggregation and neurotoxicity. TTR is a homotetrameric protein, with each monomer containing a short α-helix and two anti-parallel β-sheets. Dimers pack into tetramers to form a hydrophobic cavity. Here we report the discovery of a TTR mutant, N98A, that was more effective at inhibiting Aβ aggregation than wild-type (WT) TTR, although N98A and WT bound Aβ equally. The N98A mutation is located on a flexible loop distant from the putative Aβ-binding sites and does not alter secondary and tertiary structures nor prevent correct assembly into tetramers. Under non-physiological conditions, N98A tetramers were kinetically and thermodynamically less stable than WT, suggesting a difference in the tetramer folded structure. In vivo, the lone cysteine in TTR is frequently modified by S-cysteinylation or S-sulfonation. Like the N98A mutation, S-cysteinylation of TTR modestly decreased tetramer stability and increased TTR's effectiveness at inhibiting Aβ aggregation. Collectively, these data indicate that a subtle change in TTR tetramer structure measurably increases TTR's ability to inhibit Aβ aggregation.

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