Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Amyloid


Amyloidosis is a major problem in over one hundred diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Using the iDISCO visualization method involving targeted molecular labeling, tissue clearing, and light-sheet microscopy, we studied plaque formation in the intact AD mouse brain at up to 27 months of age. We visualized amyloid plaques in 3D together with tau, microglia, and vasculature. Volume imaging coupled to automated detection and mapping enables precise and fast quantification of plaques within the entire intact mouse brain. The present methodology is also applicable to analysis of frozen human brain samples without specialized preservation. Remarkably, amyloid plaques in human brain tissues showed greater 3D complexity and surprisingly large three-dimensional amyloid patterns, or TAPs. The ability to visualize amyloid in 3D, especially in the context of their micro-environment, and the discovery of large TAPs may have important scientific and medical implications.

Concepts: Scientific method, Neuron, Disease, Human brain, Amyloid, Amyloidosis, Beta amyloid, Congo red


It has been shown that caloric restriction (CR) delays aging and possibly delays the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We conjecture that the mechanism may involve interoceptive cues, rather than reduced energy intake per se. We determined that hunger alone, induced by a ghrelin agonist, reduces AD pathology and improves cognition in the APP-SwDI mouse model of AD. Long-term treatment with a ghrelin agonist was sufficient to improve the performance in the water maze. The treatment also reduced levels of amyloid beta (Aβ) and inflammation (microglial activation) at 6 months of age compared to the control group, similar to the effect of CR. Thus, a hunger-inducing drug attenuates AD pathology, in the absence of CR, and the neuroendocrine aspects of hunger also prevent age-related cognitive decline.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Senescence, Pathology, Cognition, Amyloid, Memory, Beta amyloid, Inclusion body myositis


How small heat shock proteins (sHsps) might empower proteostasis networks to control beneficial prions or disassemble pathological amyloid is unknown. Here, we establish that yeast sHsps, Hsp26 and Hsp42, inhibit prionogenesis by the [PSI+] prion protein, Sup35, via distinct and synergistic mechanisms. Hsp42 prevents conformational rearrangements within molten oligomers that enable de novo prionogenesis and collaborates with Hsp70 to attenuate self-templating. By contrast, Hsp26 inhibits self-templating upon binding assembled prions. sHsp binding destabilizes Sup35 prions and promotes their disaggregation by Hsp104, Hsp70, and Hsp40. In yeast, Hsp26 or Hsp42 overexpression prevents [PSI+] induction, cures [PSI+], and potentiates [PSI+]-curing by Hsp104 overexpression. In vitro, sHsps enhance Hsp104-catalyzed disaggregation of pathological amyloid forms of α-synuclein and polyglutamine. Unexpectedly, in the absence of Hsp104, sHsps promote an unprecedented, gradual depolymerization of Sup35 prions by Hsp110, Hsp70, and Hsp40. This unanticipated amyloid-depolymerase activity is conserved from yeast to humans, which lack Hsp104 orthologues. A human sHsp, HspB5, stimulates depolymerization of α-synuclein amyloid by human Hsp110, Hsp70, and Hsp40. Thus, we elucidate a heretofore-unrecognized human amyloid-depolymerase system that could have applications in various neurodegenerative disorders.

Concepts: Proteins, Protein, Cell, Protein folding, Prion, Amyloid, Heat shock protein, Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy


Amyloidosis of the gastrointestinal tract, with biopsy-proven disease, is rare. We reviewed a series of patients who presented with biopsy-proven gastrointestinal amyloidosis and report their clinical characteristics, treatments, and survival. This is a retrospective review of data prospectively collected from January 1998 to December 2011 in a tertiary referral center; 2,334 patients with all types of amyloidosis were evaluated during this period. Seventy-six patients (3.2%) had biopsy-proven amyloid involvement of the gastrointestinal tract. Their median age was 61 years (range, 34-79). Systemic amyloidosis with dominant gastrointestinal involvement was present in 60 (79%) patients, whereas the other 16 (21%) patients had amyloidosis localized to the gastrointestinal tract without evidence of an associated plasma cell dyscrasia or other organ involvement. Of the 60 systemic cases, 50 (83%) had immunoglobulin light-chain, five (8%) had familial lysozyme, three (5%) had wild-type transthyretin, and two (3%) had mutant transthyretin amyloidosis. The most frequent symptoms for all patients were weight loss in 33 (45%) and gastrointestinal bleeding in 27 (36%). Incidental identification of amyloidosis on routine endoscopic surveillance played a role in the diagnosis of seven patients with systemic immunoglobulin light-chain, and four patients with immunoglobulin light-chain localized to the gastrointestinal tract. Amyloid protein subtyping was performed in 12 of the cases of localized disease, and all had lambda light chain disease. Of the 50 patients with systemic immunoglobulin light-chain amyloidosis, 45 were treated with anti-plasma cell therapy. The median survival has not been reached for this group. For the 16 patients with localized gastrointestinal amyloidosis, supportive care was the mainstay of treatment; none received anti-plasma cell therapy. All 16 are alive at a median follow-up of 36 months (range, 1-143). Patients with biopsy-proven gastrointestinal amyloidosis often present with weight loss and bleeding. In localized cases, all that underwent typing were due to lambda light chain amyloidosis and none progressed to systemic disease during the period of follow-up. Most patients with systemic disease had immunoglobulin light-chain, and their tolerance of therapy and median survival were excellent. Although a rare manifestation of amyloidosis, staining for amyloid should be considered in patients undergoing gastrointestinal biopsy who have unexplained chronic gastrointestinal symptoms.

Concepts: Protein, Multiple myeloma, Diseases and disorders, Amyloid, Amyloidosis, Congo red, Immunoglobulin light chain, Transthyretin


Uncontrolled misfolding of proteins leading to the formation of amyloid deposits is associated with more than 40 types of diseases, such as neurodegenerative diseases and type-2 diabetes. These irreversible amyloid fibrils typically assemble in distinct stages. Transitions among the various intermediate stages are the subject of many studies but are not yet fully elucidated. Here, we combine high-resolution atomic force microscopy and quantitative nanomechanical mapping to determine the self-assembled structures of the decapeptide hIAPP(20-29), which is considered to be the fibrillating core fragment of the human islet amyloid polypeptide (hIAPP) involved in type-2 diabetes. We successfully follow the evolution of hIAPP(20-29) nanostructures over time, calculate the average thickening speed of small ribbon-like structures, and provide evidence of the coexistence of ribbon and helical fibrils, highlighting a key step within the self-assembly model. In addition, the mutations of individual side chains of wide-type hIAPP(20-29) shift this balance and destabilize the helical fibrils sufficiently relative to the twisted ribbons to lead to their complete elimination. We combine atomic force microscopy structures, mechanical properties, and solid-state NMR structural information to build a molecular model containing β sheets in cross-β motifs as the basis of self-assembled amyloids.

Concepts: Protein, Diabetes, Peptide, Prion, Amyloid, Amylin, Neurodegeneration, Ribbon


Aggregation of TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) is a pathological signature of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Although accumulating evidence suggests the involvement of RNA recognition motifs (RRMs) in TDP-43 proteinopathy, it remains unclear how native TDP-43 is converted to pathogenic forms. To elucidate the role of homeostasis of RRM1 structure in ALS pathogenesis, conformations of RRM1 under high pressure were monitored by NMR. We first found that RRM1 was prone to aggregation and had three regions showing stable chemical shifts during misfolding. Moreover, mass-spectrometric analysis of aggregated RRM1 revealed that one of the regions was located on protease-resistant β-strands containing two cysteines (C173 and C175), indicating that this region served as a core assembly interface in RRM1 aggregation. Although a fraction of RRM1 aggregates comprised disulfide-bonded oligomers, the substitution of cysteine(s) to serine(s) (C/S) resulted in unexpected acceleration of amyloid fibrils of RRM1 and disulfide-independent aggregate formation of full-length TDP-43. Notably, TDP-43 aggregates with RRM1-C/S required C-terminus, and replicated cytopathologies of ALS, including mislocalization, impaired RNA splicing, ubiquitination, phosphorylation, and motor neuron toxicity. Furthermore, RRM1-C/S accentuated inclusions of familial ALS-linked TDP-43 mutants in C-terminus. The relevance of RRM1-C/S-induced TDP-43 aggregates in ALS pathogenesis was verified by immunolabeling of inclusions of ALS patients and cultured cells overexpressing the RRM1-C/S TDP-43 with antibody targeting a misfolding-relevant regions. Our results indicate that cysteines in RRM1 crucially govern the conformation of TDP-43, and aberrant self-assembly of RRM1 at amyloidogenic regions contributes to pathogenic conversion of TDP-43 in ALS.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Amyloid, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Aggregate, Aggregate data, RNA splicing, Proteopathy


IAPP, a 37 amino-acid peptide hormone belonging to the calcitonin family, is an intrinsically disordered protein that is coexpressed and cosecreted along with insulin by pancreatic islet β-cells in response to meals. IAPP plays a physiological role in glucose regulation; however, in certain species, IAPP can aggregate and this process is linked to β-cell death and Type II Diabetes. Using replica exchange molecular dynamics with extensive sampling (16 replicas per sequence and 600 ns per replica), we investigate the structure of the monomeric state of two species of aggregating peptides (human and cat IAPP) and two species of non-aggregating peptides (pig and rat IAPP). Our simulations reveal that the pig and rat conformations are very similar, and consist of helix-coil and helix-hairpin conformations. The aggregating sequences, on the other hand, populate the same helix-coil and helix-hairpin conformations as the non-aggregating sequence, but, in addition, populate a hairpin structure. Our exhaustive simulations, coupled with available peptide-activity data, leads us to a structure-activity relationship (SAR) in which we propose that the functional role of IAPP is carried out by the helix-coil conformation, a structure common to both aggregating and non-aggregating species. The pathological role of this peptide may have multiple origins, including the interaction of the helical elements with membranes. Nonetheless, our simulations suggest that the hairpin structure, only observed in the aggregating species, might be linked to the pathological role of this peptide, either as a direct precursor to amyloid fibrils, or as part of a cylindrin type of toxic oligomer. We further propose that the helix-hairpin fold is also a possible aggregation prone conformation that would lead normally non-aggregating variants of IAPP to form fibrils under conditions where an external perturbation is applied. The SAR relationship is used to suggest the rational design of therapeutics for treating diabetes.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Biology, Insulin, Diabetes mellitus type 2, Peptide, Amyloid, Amylin


Amyloid-reactive IgGs isolated from pooled blood of normal individuals (pAbs) have demonstrated clinical utility for amyloid diseases by in vivo targeting and clearing amyloidogenic proteins and peptides. We now report the following three novel findings on pAb conformer’s binding to amyloidogenic aggregates: 1) pAb aggregates have greater activity than monomers (HMW species > dimers > monomers), 2) pAbs interactions with amyloidogenic aggregates at least partially involves unconventional (non-CDR) interactions of F(ab) regions, and 3) pAb’s activity can be easily modulated by trace aggregates generated during sample processing. Specifically, we show that HMW aggregates and dimeric pAbs present in commercial preparations of pAbs, intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg), had up to ~200- and ~7-fold stronger binding to aggregates of Aβ and transthyretin (TTR) than the monomeric antibody. Notably, HMW aggregates were primarily responsible for the enhanced anti-amyloid activities of Aβ- and Cibacron blue-isolated IVIg IgGs. Human pAb conformer’s binding to amyloidogenic aggregates was retained in normal human sera, and mimicked by murine pAbs isolated from normal pooled plasmas. An unconventional (non-CDR) component to pAb’s activity was indicated from control human mAbs, generated against non-amyloid targets, binding to aggregated Aβ and TTR. Similar to pAbs, HMW and dimeric mAb conformers bound stronger than their monomeric forms to amyloidogenic aggregates. However, mAbs had lower maximum binding signals, indicating that pAbs were required to saturate a diverse collection of binding sites. Taken together, our findings strongly support further investigations on the physiological function and clinical utility of the inherent anti-amyloid activities of monomeric but not aggregated IgGs.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Protein, Glycoproteins, Amyloid, Dimer, Monomer, Intravenous immunoglobulin


Transthyretin-related familial amyloid polyneuropathy (TTR-FAP) typically arises as an autonomic neuropathy primarily affecting small fibres and it occurs in adult patients in their second or third decades of life. It progresses rapidly and can lead to death in approximately 10 years. Other phenotypes have been described in non-endemic areas.

Concepts: Evolution, Life, Amyloid, Amyloidosis, Area, Neurological disorders, Familial amyloid polyneuropathy, Transthyretin


Intervention into amyloid deposition with anti-amyloid agents like the polyphenol Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is emerging as an experimental secondary treatment strategy in systemic light chain amyloidosis (AL). In both AL and Multiple Myeloma (MM), soluble immunoglobulin light chains (LC) are produced by clonal plasma cells, but only in AL they form amyloid deposits in vivo. We investigated the amyloid formation of patient-derived LC and their susceptibility to EGCG in vitro to probe commonalities and systematic differences in their assembly mechanisms. We isolated nine LC from urine of AL and MM patients. We quantified their thermodynamic stabilities, and monitored their aggregation under physiological conditions by ThT fluorescence, light scattering, SDS-stability and atomic force microscopy. LC from all patients formed amyloid-like aggregates, albeit with individually different kinetics. LC existed as dimers, ~50% of which were linked by disulfide bridges. Our results suggest that cleavage into LC monomers is required for efficient amyloid formation. The kinetics of AL LC displayed a transition point in concentration dependence, which MM LC lacked. The lack of concentration dependence of MM LC aggregation kinetics suggests that conformational change of the light chain is rate-limiting for these proteins. Aggregation kinetics displayed two distinct phases, which corresponded to the formation of oligomers and amyloid fibrils, respectively. EGCG specifically inhibited the second aggregation phase and induced the formation of SDS-stable, non-amyloid LC aggregates. Our data suggest that EGCG intervention does not depend on the individual LC sequence and is similar to the mechanism observed for amyloid-β and α-synuclein.

Concepts: Protein, Multiple myeloma, In vivo, Amyloid, Monomer, In vitro, Amyloidosis, Immunoglobulin light chain