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Statistical Mechanics of Globular Oligomer Formation by Protein Molecules

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journal contribution
posted on 18.10.2018, 00:00 by Alexander J. Dear, Anđela Šarić, Thomas C. T. Michaels, Christopher M. Dobson, Tuomas P. J. Knowles
The misfolding and aggregation of proteins into linear fibrils is widespread in human biology, for example, in connection with amyloid formation and the pathology of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The oligomeric species that are formed in the early stages of protein aggregation are of great interest, having been linked with the cellular toxicity associated with these conditions. However, these species are not characterized in any detail experimentally, and their properties are not well understood. Many of these species have been found to have approximately spherical morphology and to be held together by hydrophobic interactions. We present here an analytical statistical mechanical model of globular oligomer formation from simple idealized amphiphilic protein monomers and show that this correlates well with Monte Carlo simulations of oligomer formation. We identify the controlling parameters of the model, which are closely related to simple quantities that may be fitted directly from experiment. We predict that globular oligomers are unlikely to form at equilibrium in many polypeptide systems but instead form transiently in the early stages of amyloid formation. We contrast the globular model of oligomer formation to a well-established model of linear oligomer formation, highlighting how the differing ensemble properties of linear and globular oligomers offer a potential strategy for characterizing oligomers from experimental measurements.

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