Chemical colloids versus biological colloids: a comparative study for the elucidation of the mechanism of protein fiber formation

Biochemistry. 2005 Apr 12;44(14):5381-9. doi: 10.1021/bi0474719.


Fiber formation from murine serum amyloid A1 (SAA) was compared to the linear aggregation and fiber formation of colloidal gold particles. Here we report the similarities of these processes. Upon incubation with acetic acid, SAA misfolds and adopts a new conformation, which we termed saa. saa apparently is less soluble than SAA in aqueous solution; it aggregates and forms nucleation units and then fibers. The fibers appear as a string of the nucleation units. Additionally, an external electric field promotes saa fiber formation. These properties of saa are reminiscent of colloidal gold formation from gold ions and one-dimensional aggregation of the gold colloids. Colloidal gold particles were also found to be capable of aggregating one-dimensionally under an electric field or in the presence of polylysine. These gold fibers resembled in structure that of saa fibers. In summary, protein aggregation and formation of fibers appear to follow the generalized principles derived in colloidal science for the aggregation of atoms and molecules, including polymers such as polypeptides. The analysis of colloidal gold formation and of one-dimensional aggregation provides a simple model system for the elucidation of some aspects of protein fiber formation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colloids*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Serum Amyloid A Protein / chemistry*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization


  • Colloids
  • Serum Amyloid A Protein