Protein particulates: another generic form of protein aggregation?

Biophys J. 2007 Feb 15;92(4):1336-42. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.106.094342. Epub 2006 Nov 17.


Protein aggregation is a problem with a multitude of consequences, ranging from affecting protein expression to its implication in many diseases. Of recent interest is the specific form of aggregation leading to the formation of amyloid fibrils, structures associated with diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. The ability to form amyloid fibrils is now regarded as a property generic to all polypeptide chains. Here we show that around the isoelectric point a different generic form of aggregation can also occur by studying seven widely different, nonrelated proteins that are also all known to form amyloid fibrils. Under these conditions gels consisting of relatively monodisperse spherical particulates are formed. Although these gels have been described before for beta-lactoglobulin, our results suggest that the formation of particulates in the regime where charge on the molecules is minimal is a common property of all proteins. Because the proteins used here also form amyloid fibrils, we further propose that protein misfolding into clearly defined aggregates is a generic process whose outcome depends solely on the general properties of the state the protein is in when aggregation occurs, rather than the specific amino acid sequence. Thus under conditions of high net charge, amyloid fibrils form, whereas under conditions of low net charge, particulates form. This observation furthermore suggests that the rules of soft matter physics apply to these systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid / chemistry*
  • Amyloid / ultrastructure
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Chickens
  • Horses
  • Humans
  • Insulin / chemistry
  • Isoelectric Point
  • Lactoglobulins / chemistry
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Muramidase / chemistry
  • Myoglobin / chemistry
  • Prealbumin / chemistry
  • Protein Binding
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / ultrastructure
  • Serum Albumin / chemistry
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared
  • alpha-Synuclein / chemistry


  • Amyloid
  • Insulin
  • Lactoglobulins
  • Myoglobin
  • Prealbumin
  • Proteins
  • Serum Albumin
  • alpha-Synuclein
  • Muramidase