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Concept: Monomer


Electronic plants, e-Plants, are an organic bioelectronic platform that allows electronic interfacing with plants. Recently we have demonstrated plants with augmented electronic functionality. Using the vascular system and organs of a plant, we manufactured organic electronic devices and circuits in vivo, leveraging the internal structure and physiology of the plant as the template, and an integral part of the devices. However, this electronic functionality was only achieved in localized regions, whereas new electronic materials that could be distributed to every part of the plant would provide versatility in device and circuit fabrication and create possibilities for new device concepts. Here we report the synthesis of such a conjugated oligomer that can be distributed and form longer oligomers and polymer in every part of the xylem vascular tissue of a Rosa floribunda cutting, forming long-range conducting wires. The plant’s structure acts as a physical template, whereas the plant’s biochemical response mechanism acts as the catalyst for polymerization. In addition, the oligomer can cross through the veins and enter the apoplastic space in the leaves. Finally, using the plant’s natural architecture we manufacture supercapacitors along the stem. Our results are preludes to autonomous energy systems integrated within plants and distribute interconnected sensor-actuator systems for plant control and optimization.

Concepts: Protein, Blood, Integrated circuit, Monomer, Transistor, Vascular plant, Fern, Vascular tissue


Activated RAS promotes dimerization of members of the RAF kinase family. ATP-competitive RAF inhibitors activate ERK signalling by transactivating RAF dimers. In melanomas with mutant BRAF(V600E), levels of RAS activation are low and these drugs bind to BRAF(V600E) monomers and inhibit their activity. This tumour-specific inhibition of ERK signalling results in a broad therapeutic index and RAF inhibitors have remarkable clinical activity in patients with melanomas that harbour mutant BRAF(V600E). However, resistance invariably develops. Here, we identify a new resistance mechanism. We find that a subset of cells resistant to vemurafenib (PLX4032, RG7204) express a 61-kDa variant form of BRAF(V600E), p61BRAF(V600E), which lacks exons 4-8, a region that encompasses the RAS-binding domain. p61BRAF(V600E) shows enhanced dimerization in cells with low levels of RAS activation, as compared to full-length BRAF(V600E). In cells in which p61BRAF(V600E) is expressed endogenously or ectopically, ERK signalling is resistant to the RAF inhibitor. Moreover, a mutation that abolishes the dimerization of p61BRAF(V600E) restores its sensitivity to vemurafenib. Finally, we identified BRAF(V600E) splicing variants lacking the RAS-binding domain in the tumours of six of nineteen patients with acquired resistance to vemurafenib. These data support the model that inhibition of ERK signalling by RAF inhibitors is dependent on levels of RAS-GTP too low to support RAF dimerization and identify a novel mechanism of acquired resistance in patients: expression of splicing isoforms of BRAF(V600E) that dimerize in a RAS-independent manner.

Concepts: Gene expression, Transcription factor, Enzyme inhibitor, Dimer, Monomer, Inhibitor, Xanthine oxidase inhibitor, Alternative splicing


Extracellular plaques of amyloid-β and intraneuronal neurofibrillary tangles made from tau are the histopathological signatures of Alzheimer’s disease. Plaques comprise amyloid-β fibrils that assemble from monomeric and oligomeric intermediates, and are prognostic indicators of Alzheimer’s disease. Despite the importance of plaques to Alzheimer’s disease, oligomers are considered to be the principal toxic forms of amyloid-β. Interestingly, many adverse responses to amyloid-β, such as cytotoxicity, microtubule loss, impaired memory and learning, and neuritic degeneration, are greatly amplified by tau expression. Amino-terminally truncated, pyroglutamylated (pE) forms of amyloid-β are strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease, are more toxic than amyloid-β, residues 1-42 (Aβ(1-42)) and Aβ(1-40), and have been proposed as initiators of Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis. Here we report a mechanism by which pE-Aβ may trigger Alzheimer’s disease. Aβ(3(pE)-42) co-oligomerizes with excess Aβ(1-42) to form metastable low-n oligomers (LNOs) that are structurally distinct and far more cytotoxic to cultured neurons than comparable LNOs made from Aβ(1-42) alone. Tau is required for cytotoxicity, and LNOs comprising 5% Aβ(3(pE)-42) plus 95% Aβ(1-42) (5% pE-Aβ) seed new cytotoxic LNOs through multiple serial dilutions into Aβ(1-42) monomers in the absence of additional Aβ(3(pE)-42). LNOs isolated from human Alzheimer’s disease brain contained Aβ(3(pE)-42), and enhanced Aβ(3(pE)-42) formation in mice triggered neuron loss and gliosis at 3 months, but not in a tau-null background. We conclude that Aβ(3(pE)-42) confers tau-dependent neuronal death and causes template-induced misfolding of Aβ(1-42) into structurally distinct LNOs that propagate by a prion-like mechanism. Our results raise the possibility that Aβ(3(pE)-42) acts similarly at a primary step in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Neuron, Polymer chemistry, Monomer, Acetylcholine, Toxicity, Oligomer, Neurofibrillary tangle


Fibrin polymerization is a necessary part of hemostasis but clots can obstruct blood vessels and cause heart attacks and strokes. The polymerization reactions are specific and controlled, involving strong knob-into-hole interactions to convert soluble fibrinogen into insoluble fibrin. It has long been assumed that clots and thrombi are stable structures until proteolytic digestion. On the contrary, using the technique of fluorescence recovery after photobleaching, we demonstrate here that there is turnover of fibrin in an uncrosslinked clot. A peptide representing the knobs involved in fibrin polymerization can compete for the holes and dissolve a preformed fibrin clot, or increase the fraction of soluble oligomers, with striking rearrangements in clot structure. These results imply that in vivo clots or thrombi are more dynamic structures than previously believed that may be remodeled as a result of local environmental conditions, may account for some embolization, and suggest a target for therapeutic intervention.

Concepts: Protein, Stroke, Coagulation, Polymer chemistry, Fibrin, Hemostasis, Thrombus, Monomer


Much physiological and behavioral evidence has been provided suggesting that insect Odorant Binding Proteins (OBPs) are indispensable for odorant recognition and thus appealing targets for structure-based discovery and design of novel host-seeking disruptors. Despite the fact that more than 60 putative OBP-encoding genes have been identified in the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae, the crystal structures of only six of them are known. It is therefore clear that OBP structure determination constitutes the bottle-neck for structure-based approaches to mosquito repellent/attractant discovery. Here, we describe the three dimensional structure of an Anopheles gambiae “Plus-C” group OBP, AgamOBP48, which exhibits the second highest expression levels in female antennae. This structure represents the first example of a 3D domain-swapped dimer in dipteran species. A combined binding site is formed at the dimer interface by equal contribution of each monomer. Structural comparisons with the monomeric AgamOBP47 revealed that the major structural difference between the two “Plus-C” proteins localizes in their N- and C-terminal regions and their concerted conformational change may account for monomer-swapped dimer conversion and, furthermore, the formation of novel binding pockets. Using a combination of gel filtration chromatography, differential scanning calorimetry and analytical ultracentrifugation, we demonstrate the AgamOBP48 dimerization in solution. Eventually, molecular modelling calculations were used to predict the binding mode of the most potent synthetic ligand of AgamOBP48 known so far, discovered by ligand- and structure-based virtual screening. The structure-aided identification of multiple OBP-binders represents a powerful tool to be employed in the effort to control the vector-borne diseases transmission.

Concepts: Protein, Molecular biology, Malaria, Polymer, Chromatography, Dimer, Monomer, Differential scanning calorimetry


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


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


Conformational changes of Aβ peptide result in its transformation from native monomeric state to the toxic soluble dimers, oligomers and insoluble aggregates that are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Interactions of zinc ions with Aβ are mediated by the N-terminal Aβ1-16 domain and appear to play a key role in AD progression. There is a range of results indicating that these interactions trigger the Aβ plaque formation. We have determined structure and functional characteristics of the metal binding domains derived from several Aβ variants and found that their zinc-induced oligomerization is governed by conformational changes in the minimal zinc binding site 6HDSGYEVHH14. The residue H6 and segment 11EVHH14, which are part of this site are crucial for formation of the two zinc-mediated interaction interfaces in Aβ. These structural determinants can be considered as promising targets for rational design of the AD-modifying drugs aimed at blocking pathological Aβ aggregation.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Proteins, Protein, Peptide, Aluminium, Monomer, Silver, Oligomer


Nitrogen-based thermoset polymers have many industrial applications (for example, in composites), but are difficult to recycle or rework. We report a simple one-pot, low-temperature polycondensation between paraformaldehyde and 4,4'-oxydianiline (ODA) that forms hemiaminal dynamic covalent networks (HDCNs), which can further cyclize at high temperatures, producing poly(hexahydrotriazine)s (PHTs). Both materials are strong thermosetting polymers, and the PHTs exhibited very high Young’s moduli (up to ~14.0 gigapascals and up to 20 gigapascals when reinforced with surface-treated carbon nanotubes), excellent solvent resistance, and resistance to environmental stress cracking. However, both HDCNs and PHTs could be digested at low pH (<2) to recover the bisaniline monomers. By simply using different diamine monomers, the HDCN- and PHT-forming reactions afford extremely versatile materials platforms. For example, when poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) diamine monomers were used to form HDCNs, elastic organogels formed that exhibited self-healing properties.

Concepts: Polymer chemistry, Monomer, Plastic, Carbon fiber, Thermoplastic, Polyethylene terephthalate, Thermosetting plastics, Thermosetting polymer


Ring-opening polymerization of lactones is a versatile approach to generate well-defined functional polyesters. Typical ring-opening catalysts are subject to a trade-off between rate and selectivity. Here we describe an effective catalytic system combining alkoxides with thioureas that catalyses rapid and selective ring-opening polymerizations. Deprotonation of thioureas by sodium, potassium or imidazolium alkoxides generates a hydrogen-bonded alcohol adduct of the thiourea anion (thioimidate). The ring-opening polymerization of L-lactide mediated by these alcohol-bonded thioimidates yields highly isotactic polylactide with fast kinetics and living polymerization behaviour, as evidenced by narrow molecular weight distributions (Mw/Mn < 1.1), chain extension experiments and minimal transesterifications. Computational studies indicate a bifunctional catalytic mechanism whereby the thioimidate activates the carbonyl of the monomer and the alcohol initiator/chain end to effect the selective ring-opening of lactones and carbonates. The high selectivity of the catalyst towards monomer propagation over transesterification is attributed to a selective activation of monomer over polymer chains.

Concepts: Hydrogen, Catalysis, Polymer, Polymer chemistry, Monomer, Functional groups, Enzyme catalysis, Polymerization