BACKGROUND: The amyloidoses are protein misfolding diseases characterized by the deposition of amyloid that leads to cell death and tissue degeneration. In immunoglobulin light chain amyloidosis (AL), each patient has a unique monoclonal immunoglobulin light chain (LC) that forms amyloid deposits. Somatic mutations in AL LCs make these proteins less thermodynamically stable than their non-amyloidogenic counterparts, leading to misfolding and ultimately the formation of amyloid fibrils. We hypothesize that location rather than number of non-conservative mutations determines the amyloidogenicity of light chains. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We performed sequence alignments on the variable domain of 50 kappa and 91 lambda AL light chains and calculated the number of non-conservative mutations over total number of patients for each secondary structure element in order to identify regions that accumulate non-conservative mutations. Among patients with AL, the levels of circulating immunoglobulin free light chain varies greatly, but even patients with very low levels can have very advanced amyloid deposition. CONCLUSIONS: Our results show that in specific secondary structure elements, there are significant differences in the number of non-conservative mutations between normal and AL sequences. AL sequences from patients with different levels of secreted light chain have distinct differences in the location of non-conservative mutations, suggesting that for patients with very low levels of light chains and advanced amyloid deposition, the location of non-conservative mutations rather than the amount of free light chain in circulation may determine the amyloidogenic propensity of light chains.
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