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Title: Biochemical and structural studies of amyloid proteins
Author: Wirthensohn, David Christopher
ISNI:       0000 0004 7661 0788
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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Amyloidogenic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease (PD) are an important health issue. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms of the disease-related protein aggregates, that are present in humans, are only understood partially. I have used and developed biophysical methods to study the structural and biological properties of individual aggregates of Amyloid β peptide and α-Synuclein, proteins whose aggregation is associated with the development of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease respectively. I expanded the single aggregate visualisation through enhancement (SAVE) technique, which is a method based on the fluorescent dye Thioflavin T (ThT) that reversibly bind to the aggregates and whose fluorescence increases upon binding. I firstly explored the use of other dyes for these experiments and found that a ThT dimer has higher affinity to α-Synuclein aggregates in vitro. I then applied the SAVE method to the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) of a cohort of AD patients and control CSF and observed no clear difference in aggregate number. However, these experiments provided insights into how antibodies bind the aggregates in human CSF. I could show, that despite altering the Ca2+ influx into both cells and vesicles, the antibody did not measurably affect the aggregate structure. To study the size specific effects of the Amyloid β 42 (Aβ42) peptide in more detail, I used and optimised gradient ultracentrifugation combined with single aggregate imaging to study the structural properties of the isolated aggregates. This aggregation kinetic independent method allowed me to compare the properties of fluorescently labelled and unlabelled Aβ42 and characterize the size dependent properties of aggregates in a single experiment. Since I could measure the relative concentration of different size aggregates it was also possible to compare the properties of single aggregates of different sizes. I then used biological assays to examine the ability of aggregates to permeabilise membranes resulting in the entry of calcium ions, and their ability to induce TNFα production in microglia cells. Both processes are thought to play key roles in the development of AD. I found that small soluble oligomers are most potent at inducing Ca2+ influx, whereas longer protofilaments are the most potent inducers of TNFα production. My results suggest that the mechanism by which aggregates damage cells changes as aggregation proceeds, as longer aggregates with different structures are formed. Protofilaments with a diameter of 1 nm or less have a structure that could make them particularly potent at causing the signalling of toll-like receptors, providing a molecular basis for their ability to induce TNFα production.
Supervisor: Klenerman, David Sponsor: EPSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Alzhheimer ; AD ; Amyloid ; Amyloid Beta ; Single Molecule ; Fluoresence Microscopy ; Protein Structure ; High Resolution Microsocpy ; Super Resolution Microscopy ; CSF