Copper-Triggered Aggregation of UbiquitinReport as inadecuate

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Neurodegenerative disorders share common features comprising aggregation of misfolded proteins, failure of the ubiquitin-proteasome system, and increased levels of metal ions in the brain. Protein aggregates within affected cells often contain ubiquitin, however no report has focused on the aggregation propensity of this protein. Recently it was shown that copper, differently from zinc, nickel, aluminum, or cadmium, compromises ubiquitin stability and binds to the N-terminus with 0.1 micromolar affinity. This paper addresses the role of copper upon ubiquitin aggregation. In water, incubation with CuII leads to formation of spherical particles that can progress from dimers to larger conglomerates. These spherical oligomers are SDS-resistant and are destroyed upon CuII chelation or reduction to CuI. In water-trifluoroethanol 80∶20, v-v, a mimic of the local decrease in dielectric constant experienced in proximity to a membrane surface, ubiquitin incubation with CuII causes time-dependent changes in circular dichroism and Fourier-transform infrared spectra, indicative of increasing β-sheet content. Analysis by atomic force and transmission electron microscopy reveals, in the given order, formation of spherical particles consistent with the size of early oligomers detected by gel electrophoresis, clustering of these particles in straight and curved chains, formation of ring structures, growth of trigonal branches from the rings, coalescence of the trigonal branched structures in a network. Notably, none of these ubiquitin aggregates was positive to tests for amyloid and CuII chelation or reduction produced aggregate disassembly. The early formed CuII-stabilized spherical oligomers, when reconstituted in 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine POPC liposomes and in POPC planar bilayers, form annular and pore-like structures, respectively, which are common to several neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson-s, Alzheimer-s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and prion diseases, and have been proposed to be the primary toxic species. Susceptibility to aggregation of ubiquitin, as it emerges from the present study, may represent a potential risk factor for disease onset or progression while cells attempt to tag and process toxic substrates.

Author: Fabio Arnesano , Simone Scintilla, Vincenza Calò, Elena Bonfrate, Chiara Ingrosso, Maurizio Losacco, Teresa Pellegrino, Enrico R



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