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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 27, 2025
  2. The PHF6 (Val-Gln-Ile-Val-Tyr-Lys) motif, found in all isoforms of the microtubule-associated protein tau, forms an integral part of ordered cores of amyloid fibrils formed in tauopathies and is thought to play a fundamental role in tau aggregation. Because PHF6 as an isolated hexapeptide assembles into ordered fibrils on its own, it is investigated as a minimal model for insight into the initial stages of aggregation of larger tau fragments. Even for this small peptide, however, the large length and time scales associated with fibrillization pose challenges for simulation studies of its dynamic assembly, equilibrium configurational landscape, and phase behavior. Here, we develop an accurate, bottom-up coarse-grained model of PHF6 for large-scale simulations of its aggregation, which we use to uncover molecular interactions and thermodynamic driving forces governing its assembly. The model, not trained on any explicit information about fibrillar structure, predicts coexistence of formed fibrils with monomers in solution, and we calculate a putative equilibrium phase diagram in concentration-temperature space. We also characterize the configurational and free energetic landscape of PHF6 oligomers. Importantly, we demonstrate with a model of heparin that this widely studied cofactor enhances the aggregation propensity of PHF6 by ordering monomers during nucleation and remaining associated with growing fibrils, consistent with experimentally characterized heparin–tau interactions. Overall, this effort provides detailed molecular insight into PHF6 aggregation thermodynamics and pathways and, furthermore, demonstrates the potential of modern multiscale modeling techniques to produce predictive models of amyloidogenic peptides simultaneously capturing sequence-specific effects and emergent aggregate structures.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 28, 2024
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2024
  5. Phosphates and polyphosphates play ubiquitous roles in biology as integral structural components of cell membranes and bone, or as vehicles of energy storage via adenosine triphosphate and phosphocreatine. The solution phase space of phosphate species appears more complex than previously known. We present nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and cryogenic transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM) experiments that suggest phosphate species including orthophosphates, pyrophosphates, and adenosine phosphates associate into dynamic assemblies in dilute solutions that are spectroscopically “dark.” Cryo-TEM provides visual evidence of the formation of spherical assemblies tens of nanometers in size, while NMR indicates that a majority population of phosphates remain as unassociated ions in exchange with spectroscopically invisible assemblies. The formation of these assemblies is reversibly and entropically driven by the partial dehydration of phosphate groups, as verified by diffusion-ordered spectroscopy (DOSY), indicating a thermodynamic state of assembly held together by multivalent interactions between the phosphates. Molecular dynamics simulations further corroborate that orthophosphates readily cluster in aqueous solutions. This study presents the surprising discovery that phosphate-containing molecules, ubiquitously present in the biological milieu, can readily form dynamic assemblies under a wide range of commonly used solution conditions, highlighting a hitherto unreported property of phosphate’s native state in biological solutions. 
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  6. null (Ed.)