Analytical ultracentrifugation methods were utilized to further characterize the acid denaturation pathways of wild-type, V30M, and L55P transthyretin (TTR) that generate intermediates leading to amyloid fibril formation and possibly the diseases senile systemic amyloidosis and familial amyloid polyneuropathy. Equilibrium and velocity methods were employed herein to characterize the TTR quaternary structural requirements for amyloid fibril formation. From neutral to slightly acidic conditions (pH 7.5-5.1), wild-type transthyretin (0.2-0.3 mg/mL, 100 mM KCl, 37 degrees C) exists as a tetramer and is incapable of fibril formation. Under more acidic conditions (pH 5 to 3.9), tetrameric wild-type TTR slowly dissociates to a monomer having an alternatively folded tertiary structure(s) that self-assembles at physiological concentration (0.2 mg/mL) into a ladder of quaternary structural intermediates of increasing molecular weight. These intermediates appear to be on the pathway of amyloid fibril formation, since they ultimately disappear when amyloid fibrils are observed. The V30M and L55P TTR variants exhibit similar acid denaturation pathways, with the exception that dissociation of the tetramer to the monomeric amyloidogenic intermediate occurs at a higher pH and to a much greater extent, allowing the quaternary structural intermediates to be readily observed by velocity methods. Partial denaturation and assembly of the monomeric amyloidogenic intermediate(s) occur at pH 5.4 for V30M and L55P TTR over a 72 h period, during which wild-type TTR maintains its normal tetrameric three-dimensional structure. Interestingly, the L55P and V30M familial amyloid polyneuropathy (FAP) associated variants form amyloid protofilaments at pH 7.5 (37 degrees C) after several weeks of incubation, suggesting that the activation barriers for TTR tetramer dissociation to the monomeric amyloidogenic intermediate are much lower for the FAP variants relative to wild-type TTR, which does not form amyloid or amyloid protofilaments under these conditions. This study establishes the key role of the monomeric amyloidogenic intermediate and its self-assembly into a ladder of quaternary structural intermediates for the formation of wild-type, V30M, and L55P transthyretin amyloid fibrils.