skip to main content

Title: Label-free photothermal disruption of cytotoxic aggregates rescues pathology in a C. elegans model of Huntington’s disease

Aggregation of proteins is a prominent hallmark of virtually all neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. Little progress has been made in their treatment to slow or prevent the formation of aggregates by post-translational modification and regulation of cellular responses to misfolded proteins. Here, we introduce a label-free, laser-based photothermal treatment of polyglutamine (polyQ) aggregates in aC. elegansnematode model of huntingtin-like polyQ aggregation. As a proof of principle, we demonstrated that nanosecond laser pulse-induced local photothermal heating can directly disrupt the aggregates so as to delay their accumulation, maintain motility, and extend the lifespan of treated nematodes. These beneficial effects were validated by confocal photothermal, fluorescence, and video imaging. The results obtained demonstrate that our theranostics platform, integrating photothermal therapy without drugs or other chemicals, combined with advanced imaging to monitor photothermal ablation of aggregates, initiates systemic recovery and thus validates the concept of aggregate-disruption treatments for neurodegenerative diseases in humans.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Scientific Reports
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Amyloid protein aggregation is associated with many neurodegenerative diseases, including amyloid‐β (Aβ)in Alzheimer disease, human islet amyloid polypeptide (hIAPP) in type II diabetes, and human calcitonin (hCT) in medullary thyroid carcinoma. Significant efforts have been made to develop different diagnostic and prevention strategies for the early detection and intervention of these disease‐causative protein aggregates. However, conventional design wisdoms are mostly limited to the molecules with either single function (amyloid imaging or amyloid prevention) or single targeting protein (Aβ, hIAPP, or hCT). Here, a rational design strategy of an amyloid‐aggregation‐induced emission (AIE)‐active molecule is demonstrated by conjugating an amyloid fragment of GNNQQNY (G7) with an AIE fluorescent molecule of triphenylvinyl benzoic acid (namely, G7‐TBA), making G7‐TBA as multiple‐target, dual‐function, amyloid probes and amyloid modulators for detecting, monitoring, and altering amyloid aggregation of three different amyloid proteins (Aβ, hIAPP, and hCT). G7‐TBA probe shows conformationally specific binding affinities to amyloid aggregates, switching from an “off” state (low fluorescence) for amyloid monomers to an “on” state (high fluorescence) for β‐structure‐rich amyloid oligomers and fibrils in aqueous solution. Further surface immobilization of TBA probes on surface plasmon resonance surfaces allows to amplify detection sensitivity and binding affinity to amyloid aggregates formed at different aggregation stages. G7‐TBA as amyloid modulator enables acceleration of amyloid fibrillization and selectively protects cells from hIAPP‐induced toxicity. The distinct amyloid detection and modulation of G7‐TBA are essentially derived from the cross‐seeding between G7 and amyloid aggregation via β‐structure interaction, which by far exceed the binding affinity between commercial ThT and amyloid aggregates. Such design concepts of amyloid‐AIE conjugates can be further explored as multiple‐function and target probes and/or modulators for biomedical applications.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Protein aggregation results in an array of different size soluble oligomers and larger insoluble fibrils. Insoluble fibrils were originally thought to cause neuronal cell deaths in neurodegenerative diseases due to their prevalence in tissue samples and disease models. Despite recent studies demonstrating the toxicity associated with soluble oligomers, many therapeutic strategies still focus on fibrils or consider all types of aggregates as one group. Oligomers and fibrils require different modeling and therapeutic strategies, targeting the toxic species is crucial for successful study and therapeutic development. Here, we review the role of different‐size aggregates in disease, and how factors contributing to aggregation (mutations, metals, post‐translational modifications, and lipid interactions) may promote oligomers opposed to fibrils. We review two different computational modeling strategies (molecular dynamics and kinetic modeling) and how they are used to model both oligomers and fibrils. Finally, we outline the current therapeutic strategies targeting aggregating proteins and their strengths and weaknesses for targeting oligomers versus fibrils. Altogether, we aim to highlight the importance of distinguishing the difference between oligomers and fibrils and determining which species is toxic when modeling and creating therapeutics for protein aggregation in disease.

    more » « less
  3. Amyloids are self-perpetuating protein aggregates causing neurodegenerative diseases in mammals. Prions are transmissible protein isoforms (usually of amyloid nature). Prion features were recently reported for various proteins involved in amyloid and neural inclusion disorders. Heritable yeast prions share molecular properties (and in the case of polyglutamines, amino acid composition) with human disease-related amyloids. Fundamental protein quality control pathways, including chaperones, the ubiquitin proteasome system and autophagy are highly conserved between yeast and human cells. Crucial cellular proteins and conditions influencing amyloids and prions were uncovered in the yeast model. The treatments available for neurodegenerative amyloid-associated diseases are few and their efficiency is limited. Yeast models of amyloid-related neurodegenerative diseases have become powerful tools for high-throughput screening for chemical compounds and FDA-approved drugs that reduce aggregation and toxicity of amyloids. Although some environmental agents have been linked to certain amyloid diseases, the molecular basis of their action remains unclear. Environmental stresses trigger amyloid formation and loss, acting either via influencing intracellular concentrations of the amyloidogenic proteins or via heterologous inducers of prions. Studies of environmental and physiological regulation of yeast prions open new possibilities for pharmacological intervention and/or prophylactic procedures aiming on common cellular systems rather than the properties of specific amyloids. 
    more » « less
  4. The past decade has witnessed the growing interest and advances in aggregation-induced emission (AIE) molecules as driven by their unique fluorescence/optical properties in particular sensing applications including biomolecule sensing/detection, environmental/health monitoring, cell imaging/tracking, and disease analysis/diagnosis. In sharp contrast to conventional aggregation-caused quenching (ACQ) fluorophores, AIE molecules possess intrinsic advantages for the study of disease-related protein aggregates, but such studies are still at an infant stage with much less scientific exploration. This outlook mainly aims to provide the first systematic summary of AIE-based molecules for amyloid protein aggregates associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Despite a limited number of studies on AIE–amyloid systems, we will survey recent and important developments of AIE molecules for different amyloid protein aggregates of Aβ (associated with Alzheimer's disease), insulin (associated with type 2 diabetes), (α-syn, associated with Parkinson's disease), and HEWL (associated with familial lysozyme systemic amyloidosis) with a particular focus on the working principle and structural design of four types of AIE-based molecules. Finally, we will provide our views on current challenges and future directions in this emerging area. Our goal is to inspire more researchers and investment in this emerging but less explored subject, so as to advance our fundamental understanding and practical design/usages of AIE molecules for disease-related protein aggregates. 
    more » « less
  5. Prevention and detection of misfolded amyloid proteins and their β-structure-rich aggregates are the two promising but different (pre)clinical strategies to treat and diagnose neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's diseases (AD) and type II diabetes (T2D). Conventional strategies prevent the design of new pharmaceutical molecules with both amyloid inhibition and detection functions. Here, we propose a “like-interacts-like” design principle to de novo design a series of new self-assembling peptides (SAPs), enabling them to specifically and strongly interact with conformationally similar β-sheet motifs of Aβ (association with AD) and hIAPP (association with T2D). Collective in vitro experimental data from thioflavin (ThT), atomic force microscopy (AFM), circular dichroism (CD), and cell assay demonstrate that SAPs possess two integrated functions of (i) amyloid inhibition for preventing both Aβ and hIAPP aggregation by 34–61% and reducing their induced cytotoxicity by 7.6–35.4% and (ii) amyloid sensing for early detection of toxic Aβ and hIAPP aggregates using in-house SAP-based paper sensors and SPR sensors. The presence of both amyloid inhibition and detection in SAPs stems from strong molecular interactions between amyloid aggregates and SAPs, thus providing a new multi-target model for expanding the new therapeutic potentials of SAPs and other designs with built-in amyloid inhibition and detection functions. 
    more » « less