Molecular modelling of peptide folding, misfolding and aggregation phenomena

Todorova, N 2009, Molecular modelling of peptide folding, misfolding and aggregation phenomena, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Applied Sciences, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Molecular modelling of peptide folding, misfolding and aggregation phenomena
Author(s) Todorova, N
Year 2009
Abstract In this thesis we present computer modelling studies that were implemented to investigate protein behavior in various environments causing their folding, unfolding and aggregation.

Applications related to two important proteins - insulin and apolipoprotein C-II (ApoC-II) are presented.

The use of atomistic simulation methodologies based on empirical force fields has enhanced our understanding of many physical processes governing protein structure and dynamics. However, the force fields used in classical modelling studies are often designed for a particular class of proteins and rely on continuous improvement and validation by comparison of simulations with experimental data. In Chapter 4 we present a comprehensive comparison of five popular force fields for simulation of insulin. The effect of each force field on the conformational evolution and structural properties of the protein is analysed in detail and compared with available experimental data.

A fundamental phenomenon in nature is the ability of proteins to fold ab initio to their functional native conformation, also known as their biologically active state. Due to the heterogeneity and dimensionality of the systems involved, it is necessary to employ methodologies capable of accelerating rare events, specifically, configurational changes that involve the crossing of large free energy barriers. In Chapter 5, using the recently developed method BE-META we were able to identify the structural transitions and possible folding pathways of insulin. Another interesting phenomenon is the misfolding of proteins causing their aggregation, that may lead to formation of either amorphous compounds or structures of elongated-unbranched morphology known as amyloid fibrils. The deposition of amyloid fibrils in the human body may cause many debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer's and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob diseases, thus making this field of research important and urgent. The human plasma protein apoC-II serves important roles in lipid transport, and it has been shown to form amyloid-like aggregates in solution. We have performed computational studies to investigate the effect of mutations, such as Met oxidation and the residue substitutions to hydrophobic Val and hydrophilic Gln, on dynamics of apoC-II(60-70) peptide. The conformation features relevant to the amyloidogenic propensities of the peptide were identified and presented in Chapter 6.

The involvement of lipids at the various stages of development of amyloid diseases is becoming more evident in recent research efforts. In particular, micellar and sub-micellar concentrations have showed to have different effect on fibril growth and kinetics of native apoC-II and derived peptides. In Chapter 7 we investigated the influences of phospholipids at various concentrations on the structure of apoC-II(60-70) using MD and umbrella sampling methods. The molecular mechanisms of lipid effects on the peptide conformation and dynamics were identified.

In Chapter 8 preliminary results on the structural stability of pre-formed oligomeric composites of apoC-II(60-70) peptide of different sizes and arrangements were also presented. The effects of mutation (oxidised Met, Met60Val and Met60Gln) on the most stable cluster was also investigated.

To conclude, several ideas for continuation of research in the protein folding and aggregation field are discussed in the Future Work section of this thesis.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Applied Sciences
Keyword(s) Molecular dynamics
Protein folding
Protein aggregation
Amyloid fibrils
Apolipoprotein C-II
Insulin
Mutation
Lipids
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