New insight about Alzheimer protein's structure

12 May 2015

New research could help explain why Alzheimer's disease is so dangerous. Researchers at the University of Illinois, Chicago, have determined the molecular structure of one of the proteins in the fine fibres of the brain plaques, which are a characteristic of Alzheimer's disease. 

The molecule - amyloid beta-42 - is believed to trigger the disease as it is toxic to nerve cells. 

Published in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, the study found that amyloid beta-42 in amyloid fibrils forms three flat structures (called beta sheets) that turn back and forth to layer over each other in an s-shaped pattern.

Principal investigator and professor of chemistry Yoshitaka Ishii said knowing the physical structure of the 42 amino acid-long form of amyloid beta in the fibres is key to understanding how it folds up improperly and aggregates into toxic plaques.

The structural features and folding behaviour of amyloid beta-42 "offer a new perspective on amyloid propagation in Alzheimer's disease and, perhaps, other neurodegenerative disease," said Dr Ishii. 

Posted by Edward Bartel

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