Structure and composition of insulin fibril surfaces probed by TERS
in: Journal of the American Chemical Society (2012)
Amyloid fibrils associated with many neurodegenerative diseases are the most intriguing targets of modern structural biology. Significant knowledge has been accumulated about the morphology and fibril-core structure recently. However, no conventional methods could probe the fibril surface despite its significant role in the biological activity. Tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS) offers a unique opportunity to characterize the surface structure of an individual fibril due to a high depth and lateral spatial resolution of the method in the nanometer range. Herein, TERS is utilized for characterizing the secondary structure and amino acid residue composition of the surface of insulin fibrils. It was found that the surface is strongly heterogeneous and consists of clusters with various protein conformations. More than 30% of the fibril surface is dominated by β-sheet secondary structure, further developing Dobson's model of amyloid fibrils (Jimenez et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2002 , 99 , 9196 - 9201 ). The propensity of various amino acids to be on the fibril surface and specific surface secondary structure elements were evaluated. β-sheet areas are rich in cysteine and aromatic amino acids, such as phenylalanine and tyrosine, whereas proline was found only in α-helical and unordered protein clusters. In addition, we showed that carboxyl, amino, and imino groups are nearly equally distributed over β-sheet and α-helix/unordered regions. Overall, this study provides valuable new information about the structure and composition of the insulin fibril surface and demonstrates the power of TERS for fibril characterization.