Multimodal Spectroscopic Study of Amyloid Fibril Polymorphism

Corianne C. VandenAkker, Michael Schleeger, Anne L. Bruinen, Tanja Deckert-Gaudig, Krassimir P. Velikov, Ron M. A. Heeren, Volker Deckert*, Mischa Bonn*, Gijsje H. Koenderink*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Amyloid fibrils are a large class of self-assembled protein aggregates that are formed from unstructured peptides and unfolded proteins. The fibrils are characterized by a universal beta-sheet core stabilized by hydrogen bonds, but the molecular structure of the peptide subunits exposed on the fibril surface is variable. Here we show that multimodal spectroscopy using a range of bulk- and surface-sensitive techniques provides a powerful way to dissect variations in the molecular structure of polymorphic amyloid fibrils. As a model system, we use fibrils formed by the milk protein beta-lactoglobulin, whose morphology can be tuned by varying the protein concentration during formation. We investigate the differences in the molecular structure and composition between long, straight fibrils versus short, wormlike fibrils. We show using mass spectrometry that the peptide composition of the two fibril types is similar. The overall molecular structure of the fibrils probed with various bulk-sensitive spectroscopic techniques shows a dominant contribution of the beta-sheet core but no difference in structure between straight and wormlike fibrils. However, when probing specifically the surface of the fibrils with nanometer resolutiori using tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS), we find that both fibril types exhibit a heterogeneous surface structure with mainly unordered or alpha-helical structures and that the surface of long, straight fibrils contains markedly more beta-sheet structure than the surface of short, wormlike fibrils. This finding is consistent with previous surface-specific vibrational sum-frequency generation (VSFG) spectroscopic results (VandenAkker et al. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2011, 133, 18030-18033, DOI: 10.1021/ja206513r). In conclusion, only advanced vibrational spectroscopic techniques sensitive to surface structure such as TERS and VSFG are able to reveal the difference in structure that underlies the distinct morphology and rigidity of different amyloid fibril polymorphs that have been observed for a large range of food and disease-related proteins.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8809-8817
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number34
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016

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