Amyloid -- Simulation methods, Molecular dynamics -- Simulation methods


Amyloids are highly ordered cross-β sheet aggregates that are associated with many diseases such as Alzheimer‟s, type II diabetes and prion diseases. Recently a progress has been made in structure elucidation, environmental effects and thermodynamic properties of amyloid aggregates. However, detailed understanding of how mutation, packing polymorphism and small organic molecules influence amyloid structure and dynamics is still lacking. Atomistic modeling of these phenomena with molecular dynamics (MD) simulations holds a great promise to bridge this gap. This Thesis describes the results of MD simulations, which provide insight into the effects of mutation, packing polymorphism and molecular inhibitors on amyloid peptides aggregation. Chapter 1 discusses the structure of amyloid peptides, diseases associated with amyloid aggregation, mechanism of aggregation and strategies to treat amyloid diseases. Chapter 2 describes the basic principles of molecular dynamic simulation and methods of trajectory analysis used in the Thesis. Chapter 3 presents the results of the study of several all-atom molecular dynamics simulations with explicit solvent, starting from the crystalline fragments of two to ten monomers each. Three different hexapeptides and their analogs produced with single glycine replacement were investigated to study the structural stability, aggregation behavior and thermodynamics of the amyloid oligomers. Chapter 4 presents multiple molecular dynamics (MD) simulation of a pair polymorphic form of five short segments of amyloid peptide. Chapter 5 describes MD study of single-layer oligomers of the full-length insulin with a goal to identify the structural elements that are important for insulin amyloid stability, and to suggest single glycine mutants that may improve formulation. Chapter 6 presents the investigation of the mechanism of the interaction of polyphenols molecules with the protofibrils formed by an amyloidogenic hexapeptide fragment (VQIVYK) of Tau peptide by molecular dynamics iii simulations in explicit solvent. We analyzed the trajectories of the large (7×4) aggregate with and without the polyphenols. Our MD simulations for both the short and full length amyloids revealed adding strands enhances the internal stability of wildtype aggregates. The degree of structural similarity between the oligomers in simulation and the fibril models constructed based on experimental data may explain why adding oligomers shortens the experimentally observed nucleation lag phase of amyloid aggregation. The MM-PBSA free energy calculation revealed nonpolar components of the free energy is more favorable while electrostatic solvation is unfavorable for the sheet to sheet interaction. This explains the acceleration of aggregation by adding nonpolar co-solvents (methanol, trifluoroethanol, and hexafluoroisopropanol). Free energy decomposition shows residues situated at the interface were found to make favorable contribution to the peptide -peptide association. The results from the simulations might provide both the valuable insight for amyloid aggregation as well as assist in inhibitor design efforts. First, the simulation of the single glycine mutants at the steric zipper of the short segments of various pathological peptides indicates the intersheet steric zipper is important for amyloid stability. Mutation of the side chains at the dry steric zipper disrupts the sheet to sheet packing, making the aggregation unstable. Thus, designing new peptidomimetic inhibitors able to prevent the fibril formation based on the steric zipper motif of the oligomers, similar to the ones examined in this study may become a viable therapeutic strategy. The various steric zipper microcrystal structures of short amyloid segments could be used as a template to design aggregation inhibitor that can block growth of the aggregates. Modification of the steric zipper structure (structure based design) with a single amino acid changes, shuffling the sequences, N- methylation of peptide amide bonds to suppress hydrogen iv bonding ability of NH groups or replacement with D amino acid sequence that interact with the parent steric zipper could be used in computational search for the new inhibitors. Second, the polyphenols were found to interact with performed oligomer through hydrogen bonding and induce conformational change creating an altered aggregate. The conformational change disrupts the intermolecular amyloid contact remodeling the amyloid aggregate. The recently reported microcrystal structure of short segments of amyloid peptides with small organic molecules could serve as a pharamcophore for virtual screening of aggregation inhibitor using combined docking and MD simulation with possible enhancement of lead enrichment. Finally, our MD simulation of short segments of amyloids with steric zipper polymorphism showed the stability depends on both sequence and packing arrangements. The hydrophilic polar GNNQQNY and NNQNTF with interface containing large polar and/or aromatic side chains (Q/N) are more stable than steric zipper interfaces made of small or hydrophobic residues (SSTNVG, VQIVYK, and MVGGVV). The larger sheet to sheet interface of the dry steric zipper through polar Q/N rich side chains was found to holds the sheets together better than non Q/N rich short amyloid segments. The packing polymorphism could influence the structure based design of aggregation inhibitor and a combination of different aggregation inhibitors might be required to bind to various morphologic forms of the amyloid peptides.


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Graduation Date





Masunov, Artem E.


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program









Release Date

December 2011

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences, Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic

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