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1.  Elucidating Molecular Mass and Shape of a Neurotoxic Aβ Oligomer 
ACS Chemical Neuroscience  2014;5(12):1238-1245.
Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most prevalent type of dementia, has been associated with the accumulation of amyloid β oligomers (AβOs) in the central nervous system. AβOs vary widely in size, ranging from dimers to larger than 100 kDa. Evidence indicates that not all oligomers are toxic, and there is yet no consensus on the size of the actual toxic oligomer. Here we used NU4, a conformation-dependent anti-AβO monoclonal antibody, to investigate size and shape of a toxic AβO assembly. By using size-exclusion chromatography and immuno-based detection, we isolated an AβO-NU4 complex amenable for biochemical and morphological studies. The apparent molecular mass of the NU4-targeted oligomer was 80 kDa. Atomic force microscopy imaging of the AβO-NU4 complex showed a size distribution centered at 5.37 nm, an increment of 1.5 nm compared to the size of AβOs (3.85 nm). This increment was compatible with the size of NU4 (1.3 nm), suggesting a 1:1 oligomer to NU4 ratio. NU4-reactive oligomers extracted from AD human brain concentrated in a molecular mass range similar to that found for in vitro prepared oligomers, supporting the relevance of the species herein studied. These results represent an important step toward understanding the connection between AβO size and toxicity.
PMCID: PMC4306476  PMID: 25343357
Aβ oligomer; Alzheimer’s disease; NU4 antibody; neurotoxicity; AFM
2.  Nanoscale Synaptic Membrane Mimetic Allows Unbiased High Throughput Screen That Targets Binding Sites for Alzheimer’s-Associated Aβ Oligomers 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0125263.
Despite their value as sources of therapeutic drug targets, membrane proteomes are largely inaccessible to high-throughput screening (HTS) tools designed for soluble proteins. An important example comprises the membrane proteins that bind amyloid β oligomers (AβOs). AβOs are neurotoxic ligands thought to instigate the synapse damage that leads to Alzheimer’s dementia. At present, the identities of initial AβO binding sites are highly uncertain, largely because of extensive protein-protein interactions that occur following attachment of AβOs to surface membranes. Here, we show that AβO binding sites can be obtained in a state suitable for unbiased HTS by encapsulating the solubilized synaptic membrane proteome into nanoscale lipid bilayers (Nanodiscs). This method gives a soluble membrane protein library (SMPL)—a collection of individualized synaptic proteins in a soluble state. Proteins within SMPL Nanodiscs showed enzymatic and ligand binding activity consistent with conformational integrity. AβOs were found to bind SMPL Nanodiscs with high affinity and specificity, with binding dependent on intact synaptic membrane proteins, and selective for the higher molecular weight oligomers known to accumulate at synapses. Combining SMPL Nanodiscs with a mix-incubate-read chemiluminescence assay provided a solution-based HTS platform to discover antagonists of AβO binding. Screening a library of 2700 drug-like compounds and natural products yielded one compound that potently reduced AβO binding to SMPL Nanodiscs, synaptosomes, and synapses in nerve cell cultures. Although not a therapeutic candidate, this small molecule inhibitor of synaptic AβO binding will provide a useful experimental antagonist for future mechanistic studies of AβOs in Alzheimer’s model systems. Overall, results provide proof of concept for using SMPLs in high throughput screening for AβO binding antagonists, and illustrate in general how a SMPL Nanodisc system can facilitate drug discovery for membrane protein targets.
PMCID: PMC4415972  PMID: 25928376
3.  Nanodisc-solubilized membrane protein library reflects the membrane proteome 
Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry  2013;405(12):4009-4016.
The isolation and identification of unknown membrane proteins offers the prospect of discovering new pharmaceutical targets and identifying key biochemical receptors. However, interactions between membrane protein targets and soluble ligands are difficult to study in vitro due to the insolubility of membrane proteins in non-detergent systems. Nanodiscs, nanoscale discoidal lipid bilayers encircled by a membrane scaffold protein belt, have proven to be an effective platform to solubilize membrane proteins and have been used to study a wide variety of purified membrane proteins. This report details the incorporation of an unbiased population of membrane proteins from Escherichia coli membranes into Nanodiscs. This solubilized membrane protein library (SMPL) forms a soluble in vitro model of the membrane proteome. Since Nanodiscs contain isolated proteins or small complexes, the SMPL is an ideal platform for interactomics studies and pull-down assays of membrane proteins. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis analysis of the protein population before and after formation of the Nanodisc library indicates that a large percentage of the proteins are incorporated into the library. Proteomic identification of several prominent bands demonstrates the successful incorporation of outer and inner membrane proteins into the Nanodisc library.
PMCID: PMC3628400  PMID: 23400332
Nanodisc; Membrane Proteins; Proteomics; Solubilized Membrane Protein Library; Bioanalytical methods; Genomics / Proteomics; Nanoparticles / Nanotechnology
4.  Aβ Oligomer-Induced Synapse Degeneration in Alzheimer’s Disease 
Aβ oligomers cause a collection of molecular events associated with memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease, centering on disrupting the maintenance of synapse structure and function. In this brief review of the synaptotoxic effects of Aβ oligomers, we focus on the neuronal properties governing oligomer targeting and toxicity—especially with respect to binding sites and mechanisms of binding. We also discuss ways in which mechanistic insights from other diseases offer clues in the pursuit of the molecular basis of Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3146579  PMID: 21538118
Alzheimer’s disease; Synapse degeneration; Aβ oligomers; mGluR5; Fragile X syndrome; Insulin dysfunction
5.  Glutathionylation at Cys-111 Induces Dissociation of Wild Type and FALS Mutant SOD1 Dimers 
Biochemistry  2011;50(32):7057-7066.
Mutation of the ubiquitous cytosolic enzyme Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1) is hypothesized to cause familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FALS) through structural destabilization leading to misfolding and aggregation. Considering the late onset of symptoms as well as the phenotypic variability among patients with identical SOD1 mutations, it is clear that nongenetic factor(s) impact ALS etiology and disease progression. Here we examine the effect of Cys-111 glutathionylation, a physiologically prevalent post-translational oxidative modification, on the stabilities of wild type SOD1 and two phenotypically diverse FALS mutants, A4V and I112T. Glutathionylation results in profound destabilization of SOD1WT dimers, increasing the equilibrium dissociation constant Kd to ~10−20 μM, comparable to that of the aggressive A4V mutant. SOD1A4V is further destabilized by glutathionylation, experiencing an ~30-fold increase in Kd. Dissociation kinetics of glutathionylated SOD1WT and SOD1A4V are unchanged, as measured by surface plasmon resonance, indicating that glutathionylation destabilizes these variants by decreasing association rate. In contrast, SOD1I112T has a modestly increased dissociation rate but no change in Kd when glutathionylated. Using computational structural modeling, we show that the distinct effects of glutathionylation on different SOD1 variants correspond to changes in composition of the dimer interface. Our experimental and computational results show that Cys-111 glutathionylation induces structural rearrangements that modulate stability of both wild type and FALS mutant SOD1. The distinct sensitivities of SOD1 variants to glutathionylation, a modification that acts in part as a coping mechanism for oxidative stress, suggest a novel mode by which redox regulation and aggregation propensity interact in ALS.
PMCID: PMC3281512  PMID: 21739997
6.  Protein Folding: Then and Now 
Over the past three decades the protein folding field has undergone monumental changes. Originally a purely academic question, how a protein folds has now become vital in understanding diseases and our abilities to rationally manipulate cellular life by engineering protein folding pathways. We review and contrast past and recent developments in the protein folding field. Specifically, we discuss the progress in our understanding of protein folding thermodynamics and kinetics, the properties of evasive intermediates, and unfolded states. We also discuss how some abnormalities in protein folding lead to protein aggregation and human diseases.
PMCID: PMC2173875  PMID: 17585870

Results 1-6 (6)