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Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

Modulation of Aβ42 low-n oligomerization using a novel yeast reporter system

Sviatoslav Bagriantsev and Susan Liebman*

Author Affiliations

University of Illinois, Department of Biological Sciences, 900 S Ashland Ave., Rm. 4068, Chicago, Illinois, 60607, USA

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BMC Biology 2006, 4:32  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-4-32

Published: 26 September 2006

Abstract

Background

While traditional models of Alzheimer's disease focused on large fibrillar deposits of the Aβ42 amyloid peptide in the brain, recent work suggests that the major pathogenic effects may be attributed to SDS-stable oligomers of Aβ42. These Aβ42 oligomers represent a rational target for therapeutic intervention, yet factors governing their assembly are poorly understood.

Results

We describe a new yeast model system focused on the initial stages of Aβ42 oligomerization. We show that the activity of a fusion of Aβ42 to a reporter protein is compromised in yeast by the formation of SDS-stable low-n oligomers. These oligomers are reminiscent of the low-n oligomers formed by the Aβ42 peptide in vitro, in mammalian cell culture, and in the human brain. Point mutations previously shown to inhibit Aβ42 aggregation in vitro, were made in the Aβ42 portion of the fusion protein. These mutations both inhibited oligomerization and restored activity to the fusion protein. Using this model system, we found that oligomerization of the fusion protein is stimulated by millimolar concentrations of the yeast prion curing agent guanidine. Surprisingly, deletion of the chaperone Hsp104 (a known target for guanidine) inhibited oligomerization of the fusion protein. Furthermore, we demonstrate that Hsp104 interacts with the Aβ42-fusion protein and appears to protect it from disaggregation and degradation.

Conclusion

Previous models of Alzheimer's disease focused on unravelling compounds that inhibit fibrillization of Aβ42, i.e. the last step of Aβ42 assembly. However, inhibition of fibrillization may lead to the accumulation of toxic oligomers of Aβ42. The model described here can be used to search for and test proteinacious or chemical compounds for their ability to interfere with the initial steps of Aβ42 oligomerization. Our findings suggest that yeast contain guanidine-sensitive factor(s) that reduce the amount of low-n oligomers of Aβ42. As many yeast proteins have human homologs, identification of these factors may help to uncover homologous proteins that affect Aβ42 oligomerization in mammals.