Mapping Surface Hydrophobicity of α-Synuclein Oligomers at the Nanoscale

Ji-eun Lee, Jason C. Sang, Margarida Rodrigues, Alexander R. Carr, Mathew H. Horrocks, Suman De, Marie N. Bongiovanni, Patrick Flagmeier, Christopher M. Dobson, David J. Wales, Steven F. Lee, David Klenerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Proteins fold into a single structural ensemble but can also misfold into many diverse structures including small aggregates and fibrils, which differ in their toxicity. The aggregate surface properties play an important role in how they interact with the plasma membrane and cellular organelles, potentially inducing cellular toxicity, however, these properties have not been measured to date due to the lack of suitable methods. Here, we used a spectrally resolved, superresolution imaging method combined with an environmentally sensitive fluorescent dye to measure the surface hydrophobicity of individual aggregates formed by the protein α-synuclein (αS), whose aggregation is associated with Parkinson’s disease. We show that the surface of soluble oligomers is more hydrophobic than fibrils and populates a diverse range of coexisting states. Overall, our data show that the conversion of oligomers to fibril-like aggregates and ultimately to fibrils results in a reduction in both hydrophobicity and the variation in hydrophobicity. This funneling characteristic of the energy landscape explains many of the observed properties of αS aggregates and may be a common feature of aggregating proteins.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNano Letters
Early online date31 Oct 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Oct 2018


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