Structure and dynamics of small soluble Aβ(1-40) oligomers studied by top-down hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry

Jingxi Pan, Jun Han, Christoph H. Borchers, Lars Konermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Aβ peptides can assemble into amyloid fibrils, which represent one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease. Recent studies, however, have focused on the behavior of small soluble Aβ oligomers that possess a much greater neurotoxicity than mature fibrils. The structural characterization of these oligomers remains difficult because of their highly dynamic and polymorphic nature. This work explores the behavior of Aβ(1-40) in a slightly basic solution (pH 9.3) at a low salt concentration (10 mM ammonium acetate). These conditions lead to the formation of small oligomers, without any signs of fibrillation for several hours. The structure and dynamics of these oligomers were characterized by circular dichroism spectroscopy, size exclusion chromatography, and millisecond time-resolved hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry (MS). Our results reveal rapid interconversion between Aβ(1-40) oligomers and monomers. The mole fraction of monomeric molecules is on the order of 40%. Oligomers consist of ∼4 Aβ(1-40) molecules on average, and the resulting assemblies have a predominantly β-sheet secondary structure. Hydrogen exchange proceeds in the EX1 regime. This feature allows the application of conformer-specific top-down MS. Electron capture dissociation is used for interrogating the deuteration behavior of the Aβ(1-40) oligomers. This approach provides a spatial resolution of ∼2 residues. The backbone amide deuteration pattern uncovered in this way is consistent with a β-turn-β motif for L17-M35. The N-terminus is involved in hydrogen bonding, as well, whereas protection gradually tapers off for C-terminal residues 35-40. Our data are consistent with earlier proposals, according to which Aβ(1-40) oligomers adopt a β-barrel structure. In general terms, this study demonstrates how top-down MS with precursor ion selection can be employed for structural studies of specific protein conformers within a heterogeneous mix.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3694-3703
Number of pages10
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012
Externally publishedYes


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