Switch-peptides: controlling biological function and self-assembly of amyloid ß-derived peptides using enzyme-triggered acyl migrations

Conformational transitions of peptides and proteins have recently moved to the center of interest in various domains of research at the interface of chemistry, biology, and medicine due to their implication in an increasing number of diseases in which the pathogenesis is causally linked to the misfolding of a protein. For example, the amyloid β protein linked to Alzheimer's disease undergoes various conformational transitions, eventually leading to the formation of self-associating β-sheets, which in turn give rise to insoluble, fibrillar aggregates. Consequently, studies of such proteins are hampered by problems of solubility and often yield contradictory results. With the aim of surmounting these difficulties in the study of conformational transitions of peptides and proteins, a novel tool based on the concept of "Switch-Peptides" enabling the in situ induction of peptide folding will be elaborated in the present thesis. As shown in the Scheme, N(Y)-protected switch-peptides serve as stable, self-contained precursor molecules, in which folding and self-assembly is blocked by the presence of Ser or Thr derived switch-elements S, dissecting the regular peptide backbone by an ester and a flexible C-C bond. Removal of the protecting group Y triggers a spontaneous acyl migration that restores the native polypeptide chain ("statu nascendi") setting off the folding process. The body of work presented herein consists of two main themes: With the goal of developing a system amenable to physiological conditions, the introduction and evaluation of different, enzymatically cleavable Y groups was conceived. For proof of concept, the biologically active peptides angiotensin and neuropeptide Y were used, allowing the study of the impact of the S-element on their biological activities. Investigations of the analogue [Thr]5-Ang II containing a pH-triggered switch (Y = H+) reveal that the acyl migrations are very fast, exhibiting half-lives of less than one minute. With the introduction of enzymatically labile Y groups, specifically an Arg-Pro dipeptide (cleavable by dipeptidyl aminopeptidase) or the amino acid pGlu (cleavable by pyroglutamate aminopeptidase), rates of conversion ranging from minutes to hours are observed as monitored by HPLC, NMR and CD. Problems of steric interference associated with the action of enzymes such as esterases and penicillin amidase were overcome by developing linkers of different structural features. D-aminopeptidase (Y = D-Ala) was shown to extend the rates of enzymatic cleavage to half-lives of several days. The enzymes studied display high specificity for the switch-peptide substrates and a quantitative conversion from the Soff to the Son state. We took advantage of the affinity of Ang II and NPY for their respective receptors (AT2 and Y1) to show that their switch-peptide analogs are inactive in the Soff state where as after enzymatically triggered acyl migration, the peptides display high receptor affinity (IC50 = 45 nM for Ang II and IC50 = 5 nM for NPY). In the case of NPY, a conformational transition from a random coil to an α-helix as bioactive conformation is observed by CD. The second part of the work is dedicated to conformational transitions of type random coil → β-sheet in different model peptides or peptides derived from Aβ(1-42). All peptides studied show high potential for self-association and subsequent precipitation. However, in the Soff state, the switch-peptides display a high degree of stability and strongly enhanced aqueous solubility. After enzymatic triggering of the acyl migration, a conformational transition to a β-sheet accompanied by the formation of fibrils and spontaneous precipitation are observed by CD and EM studies. Based on the elaborated systems, the introduction of several orthogonal S-elements in Aβ derived peptides was realized. The incorporation of two different S-elements into the Aβ(1-42) sequence was found to greatly facilitate the normally difficult synthesis, and enabled the study of the influence of the individual peptide segments on the overall folding process. It was shown for the first time that the hexamer Aβ(37-42) is essential for the formation of β-sheets and subsequent fibrillization. As a final aspect, the elaboration of switch-peptides exhibiting β-breaking properties was investigated. Preliminary results indicate that one of the designed switch-peptides substantially slows down the formation of fibrils, representing a significant step in the development of therapeutically relevant compounds for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. In conclusion, the elaborated methodologies allow for a general application of the switch concept as diagnostic tool in the study of fibrillogenesis.

Mutter, Manfred
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis3309-3

Note: The status of this file is: EPFL only

 Record created 2005-07-12, last modified 2018-01-27

Rate this document:

Rate this document:
(Not yet reviewed)