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The assembly of protein strands into fibrils
Date:4/11/2010

The Atomic Force Microscope depicts on its screen the few nanometer thick and few micrometer long fibers as white flexible sticks, crisscrossing the surface on which they are deposited. The very peculiar property of these proteins lies in fact that they can self assemble into complex ribbon-like twisted fibers.

Researchers at ETH Zrich, EPF Lausanne and University of Fribourg have teamed up to take Atomic Force Microscopy images of the fibers and to analyze them using concepts from polymer physics and theoretical modeling. This combination of expertise has lead them to propose a set of general rules governing the assembly of filaments into thicker and twisted ribbon like fibers. Their results are published in the current issue of the scientific journal "Nature Nanotechnology". "The model that we propose is extremely precise in its predictions", says Raffaele Mezzenga, Professor of Food and Soft Materials Sciences at the ETH Zrich. "Up to now there was no such exact and general model for the formation of Amyloid fibers", continues Giovanni Dietler, Professor of Physics of Living Matter, at the EPF Lausanne.

The structure of the Amyloid fibers as it was unveiled by the experiments, surprised the researchers. Single proteins build the long filaments and subsequently the filaments assemble side by side to form the ribbon-like twisted fibers.

Mezzenga explains that the ribbon-like structure is the logic consequence of the strong charge carried by the building blocks of the fibers. In fact, the single proteins feel a strong mutual repulsion preventing them to pack and the ribbon structure is the only one that permits to limit this repulsion. Presently one missing information in the present model, is the exact nature of the short range attraction between the building blocks that drives in the first place the assembly among the protein filaments. Scientists agree that along the filaments there are charge-less domains of hydrophobic characte
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Contact: Giovanni Dietler
giovanni.dietler@epfl.ch
41-216-930-446
Ecole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne
Source:Eurekalert

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