Conformational transitions are thought to be the prime mechanism of amyloid formation in prion diseases. The prion proteins are known to exhibit polymorphic behavior that explains their ability of "conformation switching" facilitated by structured "seeds" consisting of transformed proteins. Oligopeptides containing prion sequences showing the polymorphism are not known even though amyloid formation is observed in these fragments. In this work, we have observed polymorphism in a 15-residue peptide PrP (113-127) that is known to form amyloid fibrils on aging. To see the polymorphic behavior of this peptide in different solvent environments, circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopic studies on an aqueous solution of PrP (113-127) in different trifluoroethanol (TFE) concentrations were carried out. The results show that PrP (113-127) have sheet preference in lower TFE concentration whereas it has more helical conformation in higher TFE content (>40%). The structural transitions involved in TFE solvent were studied using interval-scan CD and FT-IR studies. It is interesting to note that the α-helical structure persists throughout the structural transition process involved in amyloid fibril formation implicating the involvement of both N- and C-terminal sequences. To unravel the role of the N-terminal region in the polymorphism of the PrP (113-127), CD studies on another synthetic peptide, PrP (113-120) were carried out. PrP(113-120) exhibits random coil conformation in 100% water and helical conformation in 100% TFE, indicating the importance of full-length sequence for β-sheet formation. Besides, the influence of different chemico-physical conditions such as concentration, pH, ionic strength, and membrane like environment on the secondary structure of the peptide PrP (113-127) has been investigated. At higher concentration, PrP (113-127) shows features of sheet conformation even in 100% TFE suggesting aggregation. In the presence of 5% solution of sodium dodecyl sulfate, PrP (113-127) takes high α-helical propensity. The environment-dependent conformational polymorphism of PrP (113-127) and its marked tendency to form stable β-sheet structure at acidic pH could account for its conformation switching behavior from α-helix to β-sheet. This work emphasizes the coordinative involvement of N-terminal and C-terminal sequences in the self-assembly of PrP (113-127).
Satheeshkumar, K. S., & Jayakumar, R. (2003). Conformational polymorphism of the amyloidogenic peptide homologous to residues 113-127 of the prion protein. Biophysical Journal, 85(1), 473–483. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(03)74492-0