C-terminal turn stability determines assembly differences between Aβ40 and Aβ42

Robin Roychaudhuri, Mingfeng Yang, Atul Deshpande, Gregory M. Cole, Sally Frautschy, Aleksey Lomakin, George B. Benedek, David B. Teplow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Oligomerization of the amyloid β-protein (Aβ) is a seminal event in Alzheimer's disease. Aβ42, which is only two amino acids longer than Aβ40, is particularly pathogenic. Why this is so has not been elucidated fully. We report here results of computational and experimental studies revealing a C-terminal turn at Val36-Gly37 in Aβ42 that is not present in Aβ40. The dihedral angles of residues 36 and 37 in an Ile31-Ala42 peptide were consistent with β-turns, and a β-hairpin-like structure was indeed observed that was stabilized by hydrogen bonds and by hydrophobic interactions between residues 31-35 and residues 38-42. In contrast, Aβ(31-40) mainly existed as a statistical coil. To study the system experimentally, we chemically synthesized Aβ peptides containing amino acid substitutions designed to stabilize or destabilize the hairpin. The triple substitution Gly33Val-Val36Pro-Gly38Val ("VPV") facilitated Aβ42 hexamer and nonamer formation, while inhibiting formation of classical amyloid-type fibrils. These assemblies were as toxic as were assemblies from wild-type Aβ42. When substituted into Aβ40, the VPV substitution caused the peptide to oligomerize similarly to Aβ42. The modified Aβ40 was significantly more toxic than Aβ40. The double substitution d-Pro36-l-Pro37 abolished hexamer and dodecamer formation by Aβ42 and produced an oligomer size distribution similar to that of Aβ40. Our data suggest that the Val36-Gly37 turn could be the sine qua non of Aβ42. If true, this structure would be an exceptionally important therapeutic target.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-308
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of molecular biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 23 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • amyloid β-protein
  • β-hairpin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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