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Amyloid and Hydrogel Formation of a Peptide Sequence from a Coronavirus Spike Protein

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journal contribution
posted on 04.01.2022, 13:04 by Valeria Castelletto, Ian W. Hamley
We demonstrate that a conserved coronavirus spike protein peptide forms amyloid structures, differing from the native helical conformation and not predicted by amyloid aggregation algorithms. We investigate the conformation and aggregation of peptide RSA­IED­LLF­DKV, which is a sequence common to many animal and human coronavirus spike proteins. This sequence is part of a native α-helical S2 glycoprotein domain, close to and partly spanning the fusion sequence. This peptide aggregates into β-sheet amyloid nanotape structures close to the calculated pI = 4.2, but forms disordered monomers at high and low pH. The β-sheet conformation revealed by FTIR and circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy leads to peptide nanotape structures, imaged using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and probed by small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS). The nanotapes comprise arginine-coated bilayers. A Congo red dye UV–vis assay is used to probe the aggregation of the peptide into amyloid structures, which enabled the determination of a critical aggregation concentration (CAC). This peptide also forms hydrogels under precisely defined conditions of pH and concentration, the rheological properties of which were probed. The observation of amyloid formation by a coronavirus spike has relevance to the stability of the spike protein conformation (or its destabilization via pH change), and the peptide may have potential utility as a functional material. Hydrogels formed by coronavirus peptides may also be of future interest in the development of slow-release systems, among other applications.

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