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Keywords:

  • protein aggregation;
  • supramolecular structures;
  • amphiphilic peptides;
  • dynamic light scattering;
  • electron microscope

Abstract

Protein self-assembly and aggregation represent a special tool in biomedicine and biotechnology to produce biological materials for a wide range of applications. The protein aggregates are very different morphologically, varying from soluble amorphous aggregates to highly ordered amyloid-like fibrils, the latter being associated with molecular structures able to perform specific functions in living systems. Fabrication of novel biomaterials resembling natural protein assemblies has awakened interest in identification of low-molecular-weight biogenic agents as regulators of transformation of aggregation-prone proteins into fibrillar structures. Short amphiphilic peptides can be considered for this role. Using dynamic light scattering, turbidimetry, fluorescence spectroscopy, and transmission electron microscopy (TEM), we have demonstrated that the Arg-Phe dipeptide dramatically accelerates the aggregation of a model protein, α-lactalbumin, to generate morphologically different structures. TEM revealed transformation of spherical particles observed in the control samples into branched chains of fibril-like nanostructures in the presence of the peptide, suggesting that amphiphilic peptides can induce changes in the physicochemical properties of a protein substrate (net charge, hydrophobicity, and tendency to β-structure formation) resulting in accumulation of peptide–protein complexes competent to self-assembly into supramolecular structures. A number of other short amphiphilic peptides have also been shown to accelerate the aggregation process, using alternative complementary protein substrates for identification of molecular recognition modules. Peptide–protein assemblies are suggested to play the role of building blocks for formation of supramolecular structures profoundly differing from those of the individual protein substrate in type, size, and shape. © 2011 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 2011