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Amorphous Aggregation of Cytochrome c with Inherently Low Amyloidogenicity Is Characterized by the Metastability of Supersaturation and the Phase Diagram

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journal contribution
posted on 29.01.2016 by Yuxi Lin, József Kardos, Mizue Imai, Tatsuya Ikenoue, Misaki Kinoshita, Toshihiko Sugiki, Koichiro Ishimori, Yuji Goto, Young-Ho Lee
Despite extensive studies on the folding and function of cytochrome c, the mechanisms underlying its aggregation remain largely unknown. We herein examined the aggregation behavior of the physiologically relevant two types of cytochrome c, metal-bound cytochrome c, and its fragment with high amyloidogenicity as predicted in alcohol/water mixtures. Although the aggregation propensity of holo cytochrome c was low due to high solubility, markedly unfolded apo cytochrome c, lacking the heme prosthetic group, strongly promoted the propensity for amorphous aggregation with increases in hydrophobicity. Silver-bound apo cytochrome c increased the capacity of fibrillar aggregation (i.e., protofibrils or immature fibrils) due to subtle structural changes of apo cytochrome c by strong binding of silver. However, mature amyloid fibrils were not detected for any of the cytochrome c variants or its fragment, even with extensive ultrasonication, which is a powerful amyloid inducer. These results revealed the intrinsically low amyloidogenicity of cytochrome c, which is beneficial for its homeostasis and function by facilitating the folding and minimizing irreversible amyloid formation. We propose that intrinsically low amyloidogenicity of cytochrome c is attributed to the low metastability of supersaturation. The phase diagram constructed based on solubility and aggregate type is useful for a comprehensive understanding of protein aggregation. Furthermore, amorphous aggregation, which is also viewed as a generic property of proteins, and amyloid fibrillation can be distinguished from each other by the metastability of supersaturation.