Full-length amyloid beta peptides (Aβ 1-40/42 ) form neuritic amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients and are implicated in AD pathology. However, recent transgenic animal models cast doubt on their direct role in AD pathology. Nonamyloidogenic truncated amyloid-beta fragments and Aβ ) are also found in amyloid plaques of AD and in the preamyloid lesions of Down syndrome, a model system for early-onset AD study. Very little is known about the structure and activity of these smaller peptides, although they could be the primary AD and Down syndrome pathological agents. Using complementary techniques of molecular dynamics simulations, atomic force microscopy, channel conductance measurements, calcium imaging, neuritic degeneration, and cell death assays, we show that nonamyloidogenic Aβ 9-42 and Aβ 17-42 peptides form ion channels with loosely attached subunits and elicit single-channel conductances. The subunits appear mobile, suggesting insertion of small oligomers, followed by dynamic channel assembly and dissociation. These channels allow calcium uptake in amyloid precursor protein-deficient cells. The channel mediated calcium uptake induces neurite degeneration in human cortical neurons. Channel conductance, calcium uptake, and neurite degeneration are selectively inhibited by zinc, a blocker of amyloid ion channel activity. Thus, truncated Aβ fragments could account for undefined roles played by full length Aβs and provide a unique mechanism of AD and Down syndrome pathologies. The toxicity of nonamyloidogenic peptides via an ion channel mechanism necessitates a reevaluation of the current therapeutic approaches targeting the nonamyloidogenic pathway as avenue for AD treatment.atomic force microscopy | molecular dynamics | cell calcium imaging | neurite degeneration and cell death assays | single-channel conductance A myloid-beta peptides (Aβ 1-40/42 ) produced by β-and γ-secretase processing of amyloid precursor protein (APP) in the amyloidogenic pathway are involved in Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology. Aβ 1-40/42 peptides form β-sheet-rich ordered aggregates and soluble oligomers. Small oligomers are emerging as the predominant toxic species (1-3); the toxicity is believed to be a result of the loss of ionic homeostasis, presumably via ion channels formed in cellular membranes (4, 5). EM images of Aβ oligomers show doughnut-like morphologies (6). Atomic force microscopic (AFM) images of Aβ peptides reconstituted in lipid bilayers show heteromeric (rectangular to hexagonal) ion channel-like structures with a ∼2.0-nm central pore and 8-to 12-nm outer diameters (7,8). Electrophysiological studies show heterodisperse cationselective single-channel conductances (7)(8)(9)(10)(11)(12)(13)(14) that are consistent with features of other amyloid ion channels (6-8).On the other hand, when APP is cleaved by γ-and α-secretases, it forms the nonamyloidogenic pathway generating ∼2.6-kDa fragments (Aβ 17-40/42 ) known as the p3 peptides (15). Cleavage by γ and BACE between Tyr10 and Glu11 generates another...
Ras proteins are classical members of small GTPases that function as molecular switches by alternating between inactive GDP-bound and active GTP-bound states. Ras activation is regulated by guanine nucleotide exchange factors that catalyze the exchange of GDP by GTP, and inactivation is terminated by GTPase-activating proteins that accelerate the intrinsic GTP hydrolysis rate by orders of magnitude. In this review, we focus on data that have accumulated over the past few years pertaining to the conformational ensembles and the allosteric regulation of Ras proteins and their interpretation from our conformational landscape standpoint. The Ras ensemble embodies all states, including the ligand-bound conformations, the activated (or inactivated) allosteric modulated states, post-translationally modified states, mutational states, transition states, and nonfunctional states serving as a reservoir for emerging functions. The ensemble is shifted by distinct mutational events, cofactors, post-translational modifications, and different membrane compositions. A better understanding of Ras biology can contribute to therapeutic strategies.
Here we model the Alzheimer beta-peptide ion channel with the goal of obtaining insight into the mechanism of amyloid toxicity. The models are built based on NMR data of the oligomers, with the universal U-shaped (strand-turn-strand) motif. After 30-ns simulations in the bilayer, the channel dimensions, shapes and subunit organization are in good agreement with atomic force microscopy (AFM). The models use the Abeta(17-42) pentamer NMR-based coordinates. Extension and bending of the straight oligomers lead to two channel topologies, depending on the direction of the curvature: 1), the polar/charged N-terminal beta-strand of Abeta(17-42) faces the water-filled pore, and the hydrophobic C-terminal beta-strand faces the bilayer (CNpNC; p for pore); and 2), the C-terminal beta-strand faces the solvated pore (NCpCN). In the atomistic simulations in a fully solvated DOPC lipid bilayer, the first (CNpNC) channel preserves the pore and conducts solvent; by contrast, hydrophobic collapse blocks the NCpCN channel. AFM demonstrated open pores and collapsed complexes. The final averaged CNpNC pore dimensions (outer diameter 8 nm; inner diameter approximately 2.5 nm) are in the AFM range (8-12 nm; approximately 2 nm, respectively). Further, in agreement with high-resolution AFM images, during the simulations, the channels spontaneously break into ordered subunits in the bilayer; however, we also observe that the subunits are loosely connected by partially disordered inner beta-sheet, suggesting subunit mobility in the bilayer. The cationic channel has strong selective affinity for Ca(2+), supporting experimental calcium-selective beta-amyloid channels. Membrane permeability and consequent disruption of calcium homeostasis were implicated in cellular degeneration. Consequently, the CNpNC channel topology can sign cell death, offering insight into amyloid toxicity via an ion "trap-release" transport mechanism. The observed loosely connected subunit organization suggests that amyloid channel formation in the bilayer is a dynamic, fluid process involving subunit association, dissociation, and channel rearrangements.
SUMMARY Ras proteins recruit and activate effectors, including Raf, that transmit receptor-initiated signals. Monomeric Ras can bind Raf; however, activation of Raf requires its dimerization. It has been suspected that dimeric Ras may promote dimerization and activation of Raf. Here we show that the GTP-bound catalytic domain of K-Ras4B, a highly oncogenic splice variant of the K-Ras isoform, forms stable homodimers. We observe two major dimer interfaces. The first, highly populated β-sheet dimer interface is at the Switch I and effector binding regions, overlapping Raf’s, PI3K’s, RalGDS’ and additional effectors’ binding surfaces. This interface has to be inhibitory to such effectors. The second, helical interface also overlaps some effectors’ binding sites. This interface may promote Raf‘s activation. Our data reveal how Ras self-association can regulate effector binding and activity, and suggest that disruption of the helical dimer interface by drugs may abate Raf’s signaling in cancer.
Allosteric regulation plays an important role in many biological processes, such as signal transduction, transcriptional regulation, and metabolism. Allostery is rooted in the fundamental physical properties of macromolecular systems, but its underlying mechanisms are still poorly understood. A collection of contributions to a recent interdisciplinary CECAM (Center Européen de Calcul Atomique et Moléculaire) workshop is used hereto provide an overview of the progress and remaining limitations in the understanding of the mechanistic foundations of allostery gained from computational and experimental analyses of real protein systems and model systems. The main conceptual frameworks instrumental in driving the field are discussed. We illustrate the role of these frameworks in illuminating molecular mechanisms and explaining cellular processes, and describe some of their promising practical applications in engineering molecular sensors and informing drug design efforts.
We investigate Abeta(17-42) protofibril structures in solution using molecular dynamics simulations. Recently, NMR and computations modeled the Abeta protofibril as a longitudinal stack of U-shaped molecules, creating an in-parallel beta-sheet and loop spine. Here we study the molecular architecture of the fibril formed by spine-spine association. We model in-register intermolecular beta-sheet-beta-sheet associations and study the consequences of Alzheimer's mutations (E22G, E22Q, E22K, and M35A) on the organization. We assess the structural stability and association force of Abeta oligomers with different sheet-sheet interfaces. Double-layered oligomers associating through the C-terminal-C-terminal interface are energetically more favorable than those with the N-terminal-N-terminal interface, although both interfaces exhibit high structural stability. The C-terminal-C-terminal interface is essentially stabilized by hydrophobic and van der Waals (shape complementarity via M35-M35 contacts) intermolecular interactions, whereas the N-terminal-N-terminal interface is stabilized by hydrophobic and electrostatic interactions. Hence, shape complementarity, or the "steric zipper" motif plays an important role in amyloid formation. On the other hand, the intramolecular Abeta beta-strand-loop-beta-strand U-shaped motif creates a hydrophobic cavity with a diameter of 6-7 A, allowing water molecules and ions to conduct through. The hydrated hydrophobic cavities may allow optimization of the sheet association and constitute a typical feature of fibrils, in addition to the tight sheet-sheet association. Thus, we propose that Abeta fiber architecture consists of alternating layers of tight packing and hydrated cavities running along the fibrillar axis, which might be possibly detected by high-resolution imaging.
Emerging evidence supports the ion channel mechanism for Alzheimer's disease pathophysiology wherein small β-amyloid (Aβ) oligomers insert into the cell membrane, forming toxic ion channels and destabilizing the cellular ionic homeostasis. Solid-state NMR-based data of amyloid oligomers in solution indicate that they consist of a double-layered β-sheets where each monomer folds into β-strand-turn-β-strand and the monomers are stacked atop each other. In the membrane, Aβ peptides are proposed to be β-type structures. Experimental structural data available from atomic force microscopy (AFM) imaging of Aβ oligomers in membranes reveal heterogeneous channel morphologies. Previously, we modeled the channels in a non-tilted organization, parallel with the cross-membrane normal. Here, we modeled a β-barrel-like organization. β-Barrels are common in transmembrane toxin pores, typically consisting of a monomeric chain forming a pore, organized in a single-layered β-sheet with antiparallel β-strands and a right-handed twist. Our explicit solvent molecular dynamics simulations of a range of channel sizes and polymorphic turns and comparisons of these with AFM image dimensions support a β-barrel channel organization. Different from the transmembrane β-barrels where the monomers are folded into a circular β-sheet with antiparallel β-strands stabilized by the connecting loops, these Aβ barrels consist of multimeric chains forming double β-sheets with parallel β-strands, where the strands of each monomer are connected by a turn. Although the Aβ barrels adopt the right-handed β-sheet twist, the barrels still break into heterogeneous, loosely attached subunits, in good agreement with AFM images and previous modeling. The subunits appear mobile, allowing unregulated, hence toxic, ion flux.
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