Abstract In Alzheimer's disease (AD), the amyloid β (Aβ) peptide aggregates in the brain to form progressively larger oligomers, fibrils, and plaques. The aggregation process is strongly influenced by the presence of other macromolecular species, called crowders, that can exert forces on the proteins. One very common attribute of macromolecular crowders is their hydrophobicity. We examined the effect of hydrophobic crowders on protein aggregation by using discontinuous molecular dynamics (DMD) simulations in combination with an intermediate resolution protein model, PRIME20. The systems considered contained 48 Aβ (16-22) peptides and crowders with diameters of 5 Å, 20 Å, and 40 Å, represented by hard spheres or spheres with square-well/square-shoulder interactions, at a crowder volume fraction of φ = 0.10. Results show that low levels of crowder hydrophobicity are capable of increasing the fibrillation lag time and high levels of crowder hydrophobicity can fully prevent the formation of fibrils. The types of structures that remain during the final stages of the simulations are summarized in a global phase diagram that shows fibril, disordered oligomer, or β-sheet phases in the space spanned by crowder size and crowder hydrophobicity. In particular, at high levels of hydrophobicity, simulations with 5 Å crowders result in only disordered oligomers and simulations with 40 Å crowders result in only β-sheets. The presence of hydrophobic crowders reduces the antiparallel β-sheet content of fibrils, whereas hard sphere crowders increase it. Finally, strong hydrophobic crowders alter the secondary structure of the Aβ (16-22) monomers, bending them into a shape that is incapable of forming ordered β-sheets or fibrils. These results qualitatively agree with previous theoretical and experimental work.
Latshaw, D. C., & Hall, C. K. (2015). Effects of Hydrophobic Macromolecular Crowders on Amyloid β (16-22) Aggregation. Biophysical Journal, 109(1), 124–134. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2015.05.032