Self-Assembly of ß-Amyloid Peptides in Cells and on Solid Supports

Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease share common mechanisms characterized by protein misfolding and aggregation, including formation of plaques or inclusion bodies. The rapid growing number of patients has motivated intensive research to understand biological phenomena involved in the pathology and hence developing therapeutic strategies. Here, we will focus on β-amyloid peptide (Aβ) involved in Alzheimer's disease. In the first part of this thesis, tissue transglutaminase (tTGase) has been investigated due to its implication in a number of cellular processes and disease states, where the enzymatic actions of tTGase may serve in both, cell survival and apoptosis. To date, the precise functional properties of tTGase in cell survival or cell death mechanisms still remain elusive. tTGase mediated cross-linking has been reported to account for the formation of insoluble lesions in conformational diseases. We report here that, tTGase induces intramolecular cross-linking of Aβ peptide, resulting in structural changes of monomeric Aβ. Using high resolution mass spectrometry (MS) of cross-linked Aβ peptides, we observed a shift in mass, which is, presumably associated with the loss of NH3 due to enzymatic transamidation activity and hence intramolecular peptide cross-linking. We have observed that, a large population of Aβ monomers contained an increase in mass of 0.984 Da at a glutamine residue, indicating that glutamine Q15 serves as an indispensable substrate in TGase mediated deamidation to glutamate E15. We provide strong analytical evidence on tTGase mediated Aβ peptide dimerization, through covalent intermolecular cross-linking and hence the formation of Aβ1-40 dimers. Our in depth analyses indicate that, tTGase induced post-translational modifications of Aβ peptide may serve as an important seed for aggregation. In the second part of this work, we explore the idea of using synthetic peptides that can switch conformation in a controlled way as a sensor for β-breakers of Aβ. The concept of switch-peptides allows the controlled onset of polypeptides folding and misfolding at physiological pH by in situ O,N-acyl migration. The synthesized sequence consisted in the core sequence responsible for Aβ aggregation, flanked by two β-sheet-inducing template through ester bonds. The triggering of the acyl migration allows the native sequence to be recovered from the ester bonds and structural change from flexible unordered conformation to β-sheets and subsequently fibrils formation were observed in solution. In a more biological environment made of lipid vesicles, the conformation of the peptide has been shown to act comparably to wild type Aβ peptide by circular dichroism (CD), namely increased negative charges over the surface led to increased helical propensity followed by a transition to β-sheets and accelerated fibrils formation. Thereafter, the conformation of the cysteine analogue of the switch-peptide covalently linked to gold surface was characterized by Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). In monolayer of switch-peptide tethered to a planar gold surface, the peptide already adopts most likely β-turn conformation and no changes in the infrared spectra were detected after the triggering of the switch. On gold nanoparticles, the switch-peptide folds spontaneously into β-sheet conformation. These unwanted foldings limit the efficiency of the sensor and has driven us to an alternative configuration, where gold nanoparticles were coated with a 95:5 mixture of two peptide sequences able to stabilize the nanoparticles and to act as recognition sequence, respectively. In this configuration, the switch-peptide is added in the gold nanoparticles solution and the aggregation triggered. Here, we want to take advantage of a particular feature of gold nanoparticles that consists in a change of solution color from red to blue as the nanoparticles come closer to each other during aggregation. Preliminary results have shown that a discrimination between aggregated and soluble samples is possible. However, further improvements are necessary before a potential biosensor could be expected.


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