Disorder under stress: Role of polyol osmolytes in modulating fibrillation and aggregation of intrinsically disordered proteins

July 30, 2020


Disorder under stress: Role of polyol osmolytes in modulating fibrillation and aggregation of intrinsically disordered proteins


Geetika Verma, Priyanka Singh, Rajiv Bhat




Biophysical Chemistry


Intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) comprise ~30–40% of the proteome, have key roles in cellular processes, and have been reported to be involved in stress regulation working in synergy with osmolytes. Osmolytes are known to accumulate against various stresses in living systems and are known to stabilize the native conformation of globular proteins. However, little is known of their effect on IDPs and their mechanism of action is unclear. We have investigated the effect of a series of polyol osmolytes on the conformation, aggregation and fibrillation properties of the IDPs α and β-synuclein, involved in Parkinson's disease, using fluorescence, CD, light scattering and TEM. We observe inhibition of fibril and aggregate formation with increasing concentration as well as the number of hydroxyl groups in polyols as observed by light scattering measurements which correlates well with the increase in viscosity of solution with increasing number of OH groups in them. However, ThT assay, while indicating suppression of fibril formation at various concentrations of polyols, shows enhanced fibrillation at some other concentrations which could be due to the heterogeneity of the species formed that are ThT insensitive. Fibril formation was, thus, probed by using Nile red fluorescence which showed sensitivity towards the species formed. ANS binding fluorescence also indicates a decrease in the hydrophobicity of the fibrils with increasing number of OH groups in polyols. Polyols do not have any effect on the fibrillation of β-syn but lead to enhanced amorphous aggregate formation in presence of Ethylene Glycol and Glycerol and a reduction in the presence of Sorbitol. The net free energy of transfer of the proteins from water to Sorbitol is large and positive while it is relatively negligible in the case of Glycerol suggestive of greater preferential exclusion effect of Sorbitol in comparison with Glycerol in the case of IDPs as well. The results overall show differential and complex effect of osmolytes towards the fibrillation/aggregation properties of the two IDPs and suggest that an appropriate balance between the concentration and type of polyol or osmolyte would be required for the survival of organisms rich in IDPs under various stress conditions.




Circular dichroism, Secondary structure, Chemical stability, Aggregation, Biochemistry