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The 39-42 amino acid long, amphipathic amyloid-beta peptide (Abeta) is one of the key components involved in Alzheimer's disease (AD). In the neuropathology of AD, Abeta presumably exerts its neurotoxic action via interactions with neuronal membranes. In our studies a combination of 31P MAS NMR (magic angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance) and CD (circular dichroism) spectroscopy suggest fundamental differences in the functional organization of supramolecular Abeta(1-40) membrane assemblies for two different scenarios with potential implication in AD: Abeta peptide can either be firmly anchored in a membrane upon proteolytic cleavage, thereby being prevented against release and aggregation, or it can have fundamentally adverse effects when bound to membrane surfaces by undergoing accelerated aggregation, causing neuronal apoptotic cell death. Acidic lipids can prevent release of membrane inserted Abeta(1-40) by stabilizing its hydrophobic transmembrane C-terminal part (residue 29-40) in an alpha-helical conformation via an electrostatic anchor between its basic Lys28 residue and the negatively charged membrane interface. However, if Abeta(1-40) is released as a soluble monomer, charged membranes act as two-dimensional aggregation-templates where an increasing amount of charged lipids (possible pathological degradation products) causes a dramatic accumulation of surface-associated Abeta(1-40) peptide followed by accelerated aggregation into toxic structures. These results suggest that two different molecular mechanisms of peptide-membrane assemblies are involved in Abeta's pathophysiology with the finely balanced type of Abeta-lipid interactions against release of Abeta from neuronal membranes being overcompensated by an Abeta-membrane assembly which causes toxic beta-structured aggregates in AD. Therefore, pathological interactions of Abeta peptide with neuronal membranes might not only depend on the oligomerization state of the peptide, but also the type and nature of the supramolecular Abeta-membrane assemblies inherited from Abeta's origin.


Journal article


J Mol Biol

Publication Date





1039 - 1049


Alzheimer Disease, Amyloid beta-Peptides, Circular Dichroism, Dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine, Kinetics, Liposomes, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Membrane Lipids, Models, Biological, Peptide Fragments, Phosphatidylglycerols, Protein Binding, Protein Structure, Quaternary, Protein Structure, Secondary