Conjugated Polyelectrolytes:  Conformation-Sensitive Optical Probes for Detection of Amyloid Fibril Formation

The in vivo deposition of amyloid fibrils is a hallmark of many devastating diseases known as the amyloidoses. Amyloid formation in vitro may also complicate production of proteins in the biotechnology industry. Simple, sensitive, and versatile tools that detect the fibrillar conformation of amyloidogenic proteins are thus of great importance. We have developed a negatively charged conjugated polyelectrolyte that displays different characteristic optical changes, detected visually or by absorption and emission, depending on whether the protein with which it forms a complex is in its native state or amyloid fibril conformation. This simple, rapid, and novel methodology was applied here to two amyloidogenic proteins, insulin and lysozyme, and its validity for detection of their fibrillar conformation was verified by currently used methods such as circular dichroism, transmission electron microscopy, and Congo red absorption.