Architecture of polyglutamine-containing fibrils from time resolved fluorescence decay [Computational Biology]

August 4th, 2014 by Roethlein, C., Miettinen, M., Borwankar, T., Buerger, J., Mielke, T., Kumke, M. U., Ignatova, Z.

The disease risk and age of onset of Huntingtons disease (HD) and nine other repeat disorders, strongly depend on the expansion of CAG repeats encoding consecutive polyglutamines (polyQ) in the corresponding disease protein. PolyQ length-dependent misfolding and aggregation are the hallmarks of CAG pathologies. Despite intense effort, the overall structure of these aggregates remains poorly understood. Here, we used sensitive time-dependent fluorescent decay measurements to assess the architecture of mature fibrils of huntingtin (Htt) exon 1 implicated in HD pathology. Varying the position of the fluorescent labels in the Htt monomer with expanded 51Q (Htt51Q) and using structural models of putative fibril structures, we generated distance distributions between donors and acceptors covering all possible distances between the monomers or monomer dimensions within the polyQ amyloid fibril. Using Monte Carlo simulations we systematically scanned all possible monomer conformations that fit the experimentally measured decay times. Monomers with four-stranded 51Q stretches organized into five-layered β-sheets with alternating N-termini of the monomers perpendicular to the fibril axis gave the best fit to our data. Alternatively, the core structure of the polyQ fibrils might also be a zipper layer with antiparallel four-stranded stretches, as this structure showed the next best fit. All other remaining arrangements are clearly excluded by the data. Furthermore, the assessed dimensions of the polyQ stretch of each monomer provide structural evidence for the observed polyQ length threshold in HD pathology. Our approach can be used to validate the effect of pharmacological substances that inhibit or alter amyloid growth and structure.