"Switch peptides": conception et synthèse d'inhibiteurs ou destructeurs potentiels de fibrilles amyloïdes

Despite of considerable progress in the research at the interface of Chemistry, Biology and Medicine, neurodegenerative diseases affect more and more seriously our ageing population and remain a real therapeutic challenge for researcher. Nevertheless, advances made in this field allow us to better understand the molecular mechanisms responsible for these disorders and to stress the involvement and the key-role of conformational changes of some proteins. Thought to be at the origin of Alzheimer's disease, amyloid-β peptide undergoes structural modifications leading to β-sheet structures, which further aggregate into toxic fibrils and plaques. However, intrinsic properties of these structures result in problems such as insolubility and self-aggregation limiting their experimental access. Among the main research lines to find an efficient therapeutic agent to fight against Alzheimer's disease, fibrillar inhibition is considered as promising strategy. It requires the use of a molecule, called β-breaker, which would be able to block the misfolding triggered by conformational transitions. Consequently, the present thesis is focusing on the design and chemical synthesis of potential inhibitors of amyloid-β fibrillogenesis. As a specific common feature, the designed compounds integrate in their chemical structure a short sequence ("nucleation site") derived from the central part of Aβ(1-42), allowing to specifically interact with the pathogenic peptide. We first envisaged to design cyclic peptides as potential inhibitors containing proline residues, known for its destabilizing effect upon secondary structures (way A). In collaboration with C. Soto et al., Univ. Galveston, the biological activity of the prototype cyclo(Lys-Leu-Pro-Phe-Phe-Glu) was tested. Most notably, electron microscopy, in collaboration with J. Dubochet and M. Adrian, UNIL, Congo red and thioflavin T staining, and CD studies pointed to the potential of cyclic peptides as Aβ inhibitors. Subsequently, conjugate peptides, assembling the recognition sequence of amyloid-β and organic molecules with potential to block fibrillogenesis were synthesized specifically. (+/-)-Trans-4-cotininecarboxylic acid, 3-indolebutyric acid and a tripeptide β-strand mimic were chosen. The biological assessment of these molecules allowed us to highlight their potential in this therapeutic strategy as well as the advantage given by the intercalation of a proline between the two components of these conjugates. In an effort to introduce in the structure of β-breakers a dynamization element, comparable to the cis/trans isomerization of proline, we designed a new type of β-breaking molecules according to strategy B (Figure). The elaboration of this innovating concept termed "switch-peptides" allows to controll the function of a polypeptide by using intramolecular acyl migration as switch-element for the in situ induction of structure and function. By combining an conformational induction unit σ, a switch element S (cysteine or serine) and an amyloid recognition sequence, we obtained a new generation of dynamic β-breakers. At the Soff state, the σ part was linked to the switch element S via an ester bond, deactivating the structural influence of the conformational induction unit on the target peptide, resulting in the absence of biological activity. By removing the protecting group Y from the amino function of the switch element, intramolecular acyl migration was triggered, restoring the native amide bond, setting off the impact of σ (Son state). In applying pseudo-prolines as β-breaking σ-elements (resulting in a "kink" conformation), the corresponding switch-peptide can adopt a recognition state (Soff) and a β-sheet disrupting state (Son), triggered by controlled acyl migration. We explored the use of cysteine as switch element, with special attention to the chemoselective synthesis, kinetics of acyl migration and potential for β-breaking. Interestingly, the S→N acyl migration proceeded very fast at physiological pH, in comparison to serine derived O→N migrations. Of utmost importance for further extensions of the switch-concept, the design of non peptidic S-elements such as trifunctionalized aromatic compounds would allow us to generate the β-breaking element in situ. As a first step, the intramolecular acyl migration O→N via an intermediate of 5, 6, 7 or 9 membered rings, as well as the reversibility of this reaction, was successfully demonstrated. In addition, enzymatically cleavable protecting groups Y for triggering acyl migrations were established. In conclusion, the present thesis presents some promising concepts in the design of fibril disrupting compounds of considerable therapeutical potential.

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