Mutations Enhance the Aggregation Propensity of the Alzheimer's Aβ Peptide

Woojin Kim, Michael H. Hecht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Aggregation of the amyloid β (Aβ) peptide plays a key role in the molecular etiology of Alzheimer's disease. Despite the importance of this process, the relationship between the sequence of Aβ and the propensity of the peptide to aggregate has not been fully elucidated. The sequence determinants of aggregation can be revealed by probing the ability of amino acid substitutions (mutations) to increase or decrease aggregation. Numerous mutations that decrease aggregation have been isolated by laboratory-based studies. In contrast, very few mutations that increase aggregation have been reported, and most of these were isolated from rare individuals with early-onset familial Alzheimer's disease. To augment the limited data set of clinically derived mutations, we developed an artificial genetic screen to isolate novel mutations that increase aggregation propensity. The screen relies on the expression of Aβ-green fluorescent protein fusion in Escherichia coli. In this fusion, the ability of the green fluorescent protein reporter to fold and fluoresce is inversely correlated with the aggregation propensity of the Aβ sequence. Implementation of this screen enabled the isolation of 20 mutant versions of Aβ with amino acid substitutions at 17 positions in the 42-residue sequence of Aβ. Biophysical studies of synthetic peptides corresponding to sequences isolated by the screen confirm the increased aggregation propensity and amyloidogenic behavior of the mutants. The mutations were isolated using an unbiased screen that makes no assumptions about the sequence determinants of aggregation. Nonetheless, all 16 of the most aggregating mutants contain substitutions that reduce charge and/or increase hydrophobicity. These findings provide compelling evidence supporting the hypothesis that sequence hydrophobicity is a major determinant of Aβ aggregation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)565-574
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 21 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • aggregation
  • amyloid beta
  • amyloid fibril
  • high-throughput screen


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