Biochimica et biophysica acta

Insights into the molecular mechanism of protein native-like aggregation upon glycation.

PMID 23228929


Several human neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and Familial Amyloidotic Polyneuropathy, have long been associated with, structural and functional changes in disease related proteins leading to aggregation into amyloid fibrils. Such changes can be triggered by post-translational modifications. Methylglyoxal modifications have been shown to induce the formation of small and stable native-like aggregates in the case of the amyloidogenic proteins insulin and α-synuclein. However, the fundamental biophysical mechanism underlying such methylglyoxal-induced protein aggregation is not yet fully understood. In this work cytochrome c (Cyt c) was used as a model protein for the characterization of specific glycation targets and to study their impact on protein structure, stability, and ability to form native-like aggregates. Our results show that methylglyoxal covalently modifies Cyt c at a single residue and induces early conformational changes that lead to the formation of native-like aggregates. Furthermore, partially unfolded species are formed, but do not seem to be implicated in the aggregation process. This shows a clear difference from the amyloid fibril mechanisms which involve partially or totally unfolded intermediates. Equilibrium-unfolding experiments show that glycation strongly decreases Cyt c conformational stability, which is balanced with an increase of conformational stability upon aggregation. Data collected from analytical and spectroscopic techniques, along with kinetic analysis based on least-squares parameter fitting and statistical model discrimination are used to help to understand the driving force underlying glycation-induced native-like aggregation, and enable the proposal of a comprehensive thermodynamic and kinetic model for native-like aggregation of methylglyoxal glycated Cyt c.