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Biophysical Analysis of the Transition of an all α-Helical Greek-Key Protein into Amyloid Fibrils Composed of β-Sheet Structure

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Amyloidosis resulting from the deposition of aggregated protein has been linked to many debilitating degenerative diseases which include most notably Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The tendency for a protein to alternatively form highly ordered amyloid fibrils is dependent on many biological factors. Mutations, temperature, concentration, translational motion and pH play a pivotal role in inducing fibril aggregate assembly in vitro. The key feature appears to be the need to destabilize the native state structure as a required first step. In this paper we report on the detailed conversion of the death domain of the human Fas-associated death domain, an all α-helical protein with a Greek-key topology, into an all β-sheet amyloid fibril, using a comprehensive range of spectroscopic techniques that provide insight into this process. This transition from α-helical to β-sheet seems to require destabilization but not complete loss of the secondary structure to explore alternative conformations. This is a fascinating transition that supports the hypothesis that all proteins have the innate ability to form a fibril-like structure. Thus, the primary structure can encode two alternative three-dimensional structures: the native, functional state and the β-amyloid state. The Fas-associated death domain does not appear to naturally form amyloid fibrils in vivo. Our results clearly indicate that proteins evolved to avoid amyloid fibril formation because we find that the conditions required for formation in our model system are very specific and far from physiological.

Keywords: amyloid fibrils; death domains; fas-associated death domain; greek-key topology; immunoglobulin; α/β-plait

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2012

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  • Protein & Peptide Letters publishes short papers in all important aspects of protein and peptide research, including structural studies, recombinant expression, function, synthesis, enzymology, immunology, molecular modeling, drug design etc. Manuscripts must have a significant element of novelty, timeliness and urgency that merit rapid publication. Reports of crystallisation, and preliminary structure determinations of biologically important proteins are acceptable. Purely theoretical papers are also acceptable provided they provide new insight into the principles of protein/peptide structure and function.

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