Atomic-resolution map of the interactions between an amyloid inhibitor protein and amyloid β (Aβ) peptides in the monomer and protofibril states
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Self-association of amyloid β (Aβ) peptides is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease and serves as a general prototype for amyloid formation. A key endogenous inhibitor of Aβ self-association is human serum albumin (HSA), which binds ∼90% of plasma Aβ. However, the exact molecular mechanism by which HSA binds Aβ monomers and protofibrils is not fully understood. Here, using dark-state exchange saturation transfer NMR and relaxation experiments complemented by morphological characterization, we mapped the HSA-Aβ interactions at atomic resolution by examining the effects of HSA on Aβ monomers and soluble high-molecular weight oligomeric protofibrils. We found that HSA binds both monomeric and protofibrillar Aβ, but the affinity of HSA for Aβ monomers is lower than for Aβ protofibrils (Kd values are submillimolar rather than micromolar) yet physiologically relevant because of the ∼0.6-0.7 mm plasma HSA concentration. In both Aβ protofibrils and monomers, HSA targets key Aβ self-recognition sites spanning the β strands found in cross-β protofibril structures, leading to a net switch from direct to tethered contacts between the monomeric Aβ and the protofibril surface. These HSA-Aβ interactions are isoform-specific, because the HSA affinity of Aβ monomers is lower for Aβ(1-42) than for Aβ(1-40). In addition, the HSA-induced perturbations of the monomer/protofibrils pseudo-equilibrium extend to the C-terminal residues in the Aβ(1-42) isoform but not in Aβ(1-40). These results provide an unprecedented view of how albumin interacts with Aβ and illustrate the potential of dark-state exchange saturation transfer NMR in mapping the interactions between amyloid-inhibitory proteins and amyloidogenic peptides.
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