Reversibility of beta-amyloid self-assembly: effects of pH and added salts assessed by fluorescence photobleaching recovery

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The 40-residue peptide isoform beta-amyloid (Abeta(1-40)) is associated with Alzheimer's disease. Although found in the tangles and fibrous mats that characterize the brain in advanced stages of the disease, the toxic form of Abeta is believed to be oligomers or "protofibrils". Characterization of these fairly small structures in solution, especially in the presence of the much larger assemblies they also form, is a daunting task. Additionally, little is known about the rate of Abeta assembly or whether it can be triggered easily. Perhaps most importantly, the conditions for reversing assembly are not fully understood. Fluorescence photobleaching with modulation detection of the recovery profile is a sensitive and materials-efficient way to measure diffusers over a wide range of hydrodynamic sizes. The method does require attachment of a fluorescent label. Experiments to validate the use of 5-carboxyfluorescein-labeled Abeta(1-40) as a representative of the unlabeled, naturally occurring material included variation of photobleaching time and mixture of labeled and unlabeled materials. A dialysis cell facilitated rapid in situ changes in pH and salt conditions. Multiple steps and complex protocols can be explored with relative ease. Oligomeric aggregates were found by fluorescence photobleaching recovery to respond readily to pH and salt conditions. Changing these external cues leads to formation or disassembly of aggregates smaller than 100 nm within minutes.

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