Indexed on: 06 Feb '14Published on: 06 Feb '14Published in: Biochemistry
Proteins possessing very different structures, or even no structure, form amyloid fibrils that are very similar in internal structure. This suggests that the mechanisms by which amyloid fibrils form might be very similar, irrespective of whether the fibrils are associated with disease or with normal cellular function, or even if they have no physiological importance. In this context, it is important to have a model protein system whose amyloid fibril formation is robust in its reproducibility, which can reveal the fundamentals of the amyloid fibril reaction that may be applicable to all proteins. In this study, the aggregation mechanism of amyloid fibril formation by chain B of the heterodimeric protein monellin has been elucidated in detail. It is shown that the aggregation reaction meets all the stringent kinetic criteria of a homogeneous nucleation-dependent polymerization mechanism, which is valid over a wide range of protein concentrations. Quantitative analyses of the kinetic data using one approach based on features of the entire kinetic curve, and another based on only the initial rate of aggregation, indicate that the thermodynamic nucleus is a dimer. Spherical oligomers are observed by atomic force microscopy to form transiently early during fibril formation but are off-pathway to the direct fibril formation pathway. It is shown that amyloid fibril formation can be prevented by the addition of chain A of monellin at early stages of chain B aggregation: the two free chains combine to form native monellin, which leads to the dissociation of early aggregates.