Amyloid fibres displaying cytochrome b562 were probed using scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) in vacuo. The cytochromes are electron transfer proteins containing a haem cofactor and could, in principle, mediate electron transfer between the tip and the gold substrate. If the core fibres were insulating and electron transfer within the 3D haem network was detected, then the electron transport properties of the fibre could be controlled by genetic engineering. Three kinds of STM images were obtained. At a low bias (<1.5 V) the fibres appeared as regions of low conductivity with no evidence of cytochrome mediated electron transfer. At a high bias, stable peaks in tunnelling current were observed for all three fibre species containing haem and one species of fibre that did not contain haem. In images of this kind, some of the current peaks were collinear and spaced around 10 nm apart over ranges longer than 100 nm, but background monomers complicate interpretation. Images of the third kind were rare ( 1 in 150 fibres); in these, fully conducting structures with the approximate dimensions of fibres were observed, suggesting the possibility of an intermittent conduction mechanism, for which a precedent exists in DNA. To test the conductivity, some fibres were immobilized with sputtered gold, and no evidence of conduction between the grains of gold was seen. In control experiments, a variation of monomeric cytochrome b562 was not detected by STM, which was attributed to low adhesion, whereas a monomeric multi-haem protein, GSU1996, was readily imaged. We conclude that the fibre superstructure may be intermittently conducting, that the cytochromes have been seen within the fibres and that they are too far apart for detectable current flow between sites to occur. We predict that GSU1996, being 10 nm long, is more likely to mediate successful electron transfer along the fibre as well as being more readily detectable when displayed from amyloid.
|Number of pages||12|
|Publication status||Published - 3 May 2013|