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Amphiphilic surface chemistry of fullerenols is necessary for inhibiting the amyloid aggregation of alpha-synuclein NACore


Featuring small sizes, caged structures, low cytotoxicity and the capability to cross biological barriers, fullerene hydroxy derivatives named fullerenols have been explored as nanomedicinal candidates for amyloid inhibition. Understanding the surface chemistry effect of hydroxylation extents and the corresponding amyloid inhibition mechanisms is necessary for enabling applications of fullerenols and also future designs of nanomedicines in mitigating amyloid aggregation. Here, we investigated effects of C60(OH)n with n = 0-40 on the aggregation of NACore (the amyloidogenic core region of the non-amyloid-β component in α-synuclein), the amyloidogenic core of α-synuclein, by computational simulations, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, thioflavin-T (ThT) fluorescence kinetics and viability assays. Computationally, NACore assembled into cross-β aggregates via intermediates including β-barrels, which are postulated as toxic oligomers of amyloid aggregation. Hydrophobic C60 preferred to self-assemble, and NACore bound to the surface of C60 nano-clusters formed β-sheet rich aggregates – i.e., having little inhibition effect. Amphiphilic C60(OH)n with n = 4-20 displayed significant inhibition effects on NACore aggregation, where hydrogen bonding between hydroxyls and peptide backbones interrupted the formation of β-sheets between peptides adsorbed onto the surfaces of fullerenols or fullerenol nano-assemblies due to hydrophobic interactions. Thus, both cross-β aggregates and β-barrel intermediates were significantly suppressed. With hydroxyls increased to 40, fullerenols became highly hydrophilic with reduced peptide binding and thus an inhibition effect on amyloid aggregation. ThT, FTIR and TEM characterization of C60(OH)n with n = 0, 24, & 40 confirmed the computational predictions. Our results and others underscore the importance of amphiphilic surface chemistry and the capability of polar groups in forming hydrogen bonds with peptide backbones to render amyloid inhibition, offering a new insight for de-novo design of anti-amyloid inhibitors.

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