Role of amino acid hydrophobicity, aromaticity, and molecular volume on IAPP(20-29) amyloid self-assembly

Todd M. Doran, Alissa J. Kamens, Nadia K. Byrnes, Bradley L. Nilsson

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64 Scopus citations


Aromatic amino acids strongly promote cross-β amyloid formation; whether the amyloidogenicity of aromatic residues is due to high hydrophobicity and β-sheet propensity or formation of stabilizing π-π interactions has been debated. To clarify the role of aromatic residues on amyloid formation, the islet amyloid polypeptide 20-29 fragment [IAPP(20-29)], which contains a single aromatic residue (Phe 23), was adopted as a model. The side chain of residue 23 does not self-associate in cross-β fibrils of IAPP(20-29) (Nielsen et al., Angew Chem Int Ed 2009;48:2118-2121), allowing investigation of the amyloidogenicity of aromatic amino acids in a context where direct π-π interactions do not occur. We prepared variants of IAPP(20-29) in which Tyr, Leu, Phe, pentafluorophenylalanine (F5-Phe), Trp, cyclohexylalanine (Cha), α-naphthylalanine (1-Nap), or β-naphthylalanine (2-Nap) (in order of increasing peptide hydrophobicity) were incorporated at position 23 (SNNXGAILSS-NH2), and the kinetic and thermodynamic effects of these mutations on cross-β self-assembly were assessed. The Tyr, Leu, and Trp 23 variants failed to readily self-assemble at concentrations up to 1.5 mM, while the Cha 23 mutant fibrillized with attenuated kinetics and similar thermodynamic stability relative to the wild-type Phe 23 peptide. Conversely, the F5-Phe, 1-Nap, and 2-Nap 23 variants self-assembled at enhanced rates, forming fibrils with greater thermodynamic stability than the wild-type peptide. These results indicate that the high amyloidogenicity of aromatic amino acids is a function of hydrophobicity, β-sheet propensity, and planar geometry and not the ability to form stabilizing or directing π-π bonds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1053-1065
Number of pages13
JournalProteins: Structure, Function and Bioinformatics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Amylin
  • Amyloid
  • Aromatic π-π interactions
  • Islet amyloid polypeptide
  • Self-assembly


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