Source:Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 102:7835–40, 2005
There is a hypothesis that dangerous diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, Alzheimer's, fatal familial insomnia, and several others are induced by propagation of wrong or misfolded conformations of some vital proteins. If for some reason the misfolded conformations were acquired by many such protein molecules it might lead to a "conformational" disease of the organism. Here, a theoretical model of the molecular mechanism of such a conformational disease is proposed, in which a metastable (or misfolded) form of a protein induces a similar misfolding of another protein molecule (conformational autocatalysis). First, a number of amino acid sequences composed of 32 aa have been designed that fold rapidly into a well defined native-like alpha-helical conformation. From a large number of such sequences a subset of 14 had a specific feature of their energy landscape, a well defined local energy minimum (higher than the global minimum for the alpha-helical fold) corresponding to beta-type structure. Only one of these 14 sequences exhibited a strong autocatalytic tendency to form a beta-sheet dimer capable of further propagation of protofibril-like structure. Simulations were done by using a reduced, although of high resolution, protein model and the replica exchange Monte Carlo sampling procedure.