Full-length amyloid beta peptides (Abeta(1-40/42)) form neuritic amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients and are implicated in AD pathology. However, recent transgenic animal models cast doubt on their direct role in AD pathology. Nonamyloidogenic truncated amyloid-beta fragments (Abeta(11-42) and Abeta(17-42)) are also found in amyloid plaques of AD and in the preamyloid lesions of Down syndrome, a model system for early-onset AD study. Very little is known about the structure and activity of these smaller peptides, although they could be the primary AD and Down syndrome pathological agents. Using complementary techniques of molecular dynamics simulations, atomic force microscopy, channel conductance measurements, calcium imaging, neuritic degeneration, and cell death assays, we show that nonamyloidogenic Abeta(9-42) and Abeta(17-42) peptides form ion channels with loosely attached subunits and elicit single-channel conductances. The subunits appear mobile, suggesting insertion of small oligomers, followed by dynamic channel assembly and dissociation. These channels allow calcium uptake in amyloid precursor protein-deficient cells. The channel mediated calcium uptake induces neurite degeneration in human cortical neurons. Channel conductance, calcium uptake, and neurite degeneration are selectively inhibited by zinc, a blocker of amyloid ion channel activity. Thus, truncated Abeta fragments could account for undefined roles played by full length Abetas and provide a unique mechanism of AD and Down syndrome pathologies. The toxicity of nonamyloidogenic peptides via an ion channel mechanism necessitates a reevaluation of the current therapeutic approaches targeting the nonamyloidogenic pathway as avenue for AD treatment. In Alzheimer's disease, calcium permeability through cellular membranes appears to underlie neuronal cell death. It is increasingly accepted that calcium permeability involves toxic ion channels. We modeled Alzheimer's disease ion channels of different sizes (12-mer to 36-mer) in the lipid bilayer using molecular dynamics simulations. Our Abeta channels consist of the solid-state NMR-based U-shaped beta-strand-turn-beta-strand motif. In the simulations we obtain ion-permeable channels whose subunit morphologies and shapes are consistent with electron microscopy/atomic force microscopy. In agreement with imaged channels, the simulations indicate that beta-sheet channels break into loosely associated mobile beta-sheet subunits. The preferred channel sizes (16- to 24-mer) are compatible with electron microscopy/atomic force microscopy-derived dimensions. Mobile subunits were also observed for beta-sheet channels formed by cytolytic PG-1 beta-hairpins. The emerging picture from our large-scale simulations is that toxic ion channels formed by beta-sheets spontaneously break into loosely interacting dynamic units that associate and dissociate leading to toxic ionic flux. This sharply contrasts intact conventional gated ion channels that consist of tightly interacting alpha-helices that robustly prevent ion leakage, rather than hydrogen-bonded beta-strands. The simulations suggest why conventional gated channels evolved to consist of interacting alpha-helices rather than hydrogen-bonded beta-strands that tend to break in fluidic bilayers. Nature designs folded channels but not misfolded toxic channels. Although a key factor in Alzheimer's disease etiology is enrichment of Zn(2+) in aggregates, and there are data suggesting that zinc promotes aggregation, how Zn(2+)-Abeta coordination promotes aggregation is elusive. We probed the structures and mechanisms through which Zn(2+) can affect amyloidosis. By covalently linking fragments (that have experiment-based coordinates) we observed that, in oligomeric Zn(2+)-Abeta(42), Zn(2+) can simultaneously coordinate intra- and intermolecularly, bridging two peptides. Zinc coordination significantly decreases the solvation energy for large Zn(2+)-Abeta(42) oligomers and thus enhances their aggregation tendency. Zn(2+) binding does not change the beta-sheet association around the C-terminal hydrophobic region;however, it shifts the relative population of the preexisting amyloid polymorphic ensembles. As a result, although a parallel beta-sheet arrangement is still preferred, antiparallel and other less structured assemblies are stabilized, also becoming major species. Overall, Zn(2+) coordination promotes Abeta(42) aggregation leading to less uniform structures. Our replica exchange molecular dynamics simulations further reproduced an experimental observation that the increasing Zn(2+) concentration could slow down the aggregation rate, even though the aggregation rates are still much higher than in Zn(2+)-free solution. In addition, we have addressed mechanisms of transcription factor selectivity. The initiation of transcription is regulated by transcription factors (TFs) binding to DNA response elements (REs). How do TFs recognize specific binding sites among the many similar ones available in the genome? Recent research has illustrated that even a single nucleotide substitution can alter the selective binding of TFs to coregulators, that prior binding events can lead to selective DNA binding, and that selectivity is influenced by the availability of binding sites in the genome. We combined structural insights with recent genomics screens to address the problem of TF-DNA interaction specificity. The emerging picture of selective binding site sequence recognition and TF activation involves three major factors: the cellular network, protein and DNA as dynamic conformational ensembles and the tight packing of multiple TFs and coregulators on stretches of regulatory DNA. The classification of TF recognition mechanisms based on these factors impacts our understanding of how transcription initiation is regulated.

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Jang, Hyunbum; Muratcioglu, Serena; Gursoy, Attila et al. (2016) Membrane-associated Ras dimers are isoform-specific: K-Ras dimers differ from H-Ras dimers. Biochem J 473:1719-32
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