Albany 2013: Book of Abstracts

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Conversation 18
June 11-15 2013
©Adenine Press (2012)

Amyloid Fibril Polymorphism Probed by Advanced Vibrational Spectroscopy

Amyloid fibrils are associated with many neurodegenerative diseases. All known amyloids including pathogenic and non-pathogenic forms display functional and structural heterogeneity (polymorphism) which determines the level of their toxicity. Despite a significant biological and biomedical importance, the nature of the amyloid fibril polymorphism remains elusive. We utilized for the first time three most advanced vibrational techniques to probe the core, the surface and supramolecular chirality of fibril polymorphs. A new type of folding–aggregation phenomenon, spontaneous refolding from one polymorph to another was discovered (Kurouski, Lauro et al. 2010). Hydrogen-deuterium exchange deep UV resonance Raman (DUVRR) spectroscopy (Oladepo, Xiong et al. 2012) combined with advanced statistical analysis (Shashilov and Lednev 2010) allowed for structural characterization of the highly ordered cross-β core of amyloid fibrils. We reported several examples showing significant variations in the core structure for fibril polymorphs. Amyloid fibrils are generally composed of several protofibrils and may adopt variable morphologies, such as twisted ribbons or flat-like sheets. We discovered the existence of another level of amyloid polymorphism, namely, that associated with fibril supramolecular chirality. Two chiral polymorphs of insulin, which can be controllably grown by means of small pH variations, exhibit opposite signs of vibrational circular dichroism (VCD) spectra (Kurouski, Dukor et al. 2012). VCD supramolecular chirality is correlated not only by the apparent fibril handedness but also by the sense of supramolecular chirality from a deeper level of chiral organization at the protofilament level of fibril structure. A small pH change initiates spontaneous transformation of insulin fibrils from one polymorph to another. As a result, fibril supramolecular chirality overturns both accompanying morphological and structural changes (Kurouski, Dukor et al. 2012). No conventional methods could probe the fibril surface despite its significant role in the biological activity. We utilized tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS) to characterize the surface structure of an individual fibril due to a high depth and lateral spatial resolution of the method in the nanometer range (Kurouski, Deckert-Gaudig et al. 2012). It was found that the surface is strongly heterogeneous and consists of clusters with various protein conformations and amino acid composition. This research has been supported by grants from NIH R01 AG033719 and NSF CHE-1152752.


  1. D. Kurouski, T. Deckert-Gaudig, V. Deckert & I. K. Lednev (2012) Structure and Composition of Insulin Fibril Surfaces Probed by TERS. J Am Chem Soc 134, 13323−13329.
  2. D. Kurouski, R. K. Dukor, X. Lu, L.A. Nafie & I.K. Lednev (2012). Normal and reversed supramolecular chirality of insulin fibrils probed by vibrational circular dichroism at the protofilament level of fibril structure. Biophys J 103, 522-531.
  3. D. Kurouski, R. K. Dukor, X. Lu, L.A. Nafie & I.K. Lednev (2012). Spontaneous inter-conversion of insulin fibril chirality." Chem Comm 48, 2837-2839.
  4. D. Kurouski, W. Lauro & I. K. Lednev. (2010). Amyloid fibrils are "alive": spontaneous refolding from one polymorph to another. Chem Comm 46, 4249-4251.
  5. S. A. Oladepo, K. Xiong, Z. Hong; S.A. Asher, J. Handen & I. K. Lednev (2012). UV resonance Raman investigations of peptide and protein structure and dynamics." Chem Rev 112, 2604-2628.
  6. V. A. Shashilov & I. K. Lednev (2010). Advanced statistical and numerical methods for spectroscopic characterization of protein structural evolution. Chem Rev 110, 5692-5713.

Igor K. Lednev
and Dmitry Kurouski

Department of Chemistry
University at Albany, SUNY, Albany, NY 12222

Ph: (518) 591-8863
Fx: (518) 442-3462
Email: ilednev@albany.edu