The Alzheimer's peptides Abeta40 and 42 adopt distinct conformations in water: a combined MD / NMR study

J Mol Biol. 2007 May 18;368(5):1448-57. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2007.02.093. Epub 2007 Mar 7.


The role of peptides Abeta40 and Abeta42 in the early pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is frequently emphasized in the literature. It is known that Abeta42 is more prone to aggregation than Abeta40, even though they differ in only two (IA) amino acid residues at the C-terminal end. A direct comparison of the ensembles of conformations adopted by the monomers in solution has been limited by the inherent flexibility of the unfolded peptides. Here, we characterize the conformations of Abeta40 and Abeta42 in water by using a combination of molecular dynamics (MD) and measured scalar (3)J(HNHalpha) data from NMR experiments. We perform replica exchange MD (REMD) simulations and find that classical forcefields reproduce the NMR data quantitatively when the sampling is extended to the microseconds time-scale. Using the quantitative agreement of the NMR data as a validation of the model, we proceed to compare the conformational ensembles of the Abeta40 and Abeta42 peptide monomers. Our analysis confirms the existence of structured regions within the otherwise flexible Abeta peptides. We find that the C terminus of Abeta42 is more structured than that of Abeta40. The formation of a beta-hairpin in the sequence (31)IIGLMVGGVVIA involving short strands at residues 31-34 and 38-41 (in bold) reduces the C-terminal flexibility of the Abeta42 peptide and may be responsible for the higher propensity of this peptide to form amyloids.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / chemistry*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Computer Simulation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular
  • Peptide Fragments / chemistry*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Water / chemistry*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Water