The thioflavin T fluorescence assay for amyloid fibril detection can be biased by the presence of exogenous compounds

FEBS J. 2009 Oct;276(20):5960-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2009.07307.x. Epub 2009 Sep 15.


Thioflavin T (ThT) dye fluorescence is used regularly to quantify the formation and inhibition of amyloid fibrils in the presence of anti-amyloidogenic compounds such as polyphenols. However, in this study, it was shown, using three polyphenolics (curcumin, quercetin and resveratrol), that ThT fluorescence should be used with caution in the presence of such exogenous compounds. The strong absorptive and fluorescent properties of quercetin and curcumin were found to significantly bias the ThT fluorescence readings in both in situ real-time ThT assays and single time-point dilution ThT-type assays. The presence of curcumin at concentrations as low as 0.01 and 1 mum was sufficient to interfere with the ThT fluorescence associated with fibrillar amyloid-beta(1-42) (0.5 mum) and fibrillar reduced and carboxymethylated kappa-casein (50 mum), respectively. The ThT fluorescence associated with fibrillar amyloid-beta(1-42) was also biased using higher concentrations of resveratrol, a polyphenol that is not spectroscopically active at the wavelengths of ThT fluorescence, implying that there can be direct interactions between ThT and the exogenous compound and/or competitive binding with ThT for the fibrils. Thus, in all cases where ThT is used in the presence of an exogenous compound, biases for amyloid-associated ThT fluorescence should be tested, regardless of whether the additive is spectroscopically active. Simple methods to conduct these tests were described. The Congo red spectral shift assay is demonstrated as a more viable spectrophotometric alternative to ThT, but allied methods, such as transmission electron microscopy, should also be used to assess fibril formation independently of dye-based assays. Structured digital abstract: * MINT-7259867: RCMkappa-CN (uniprotkb:P02668) and RCMkappa-CN (uniprotkb:P02668) bind (MI:0407) by electron microscopy (MI:0040) * MINT-7258930: RCMkappa-CN (uniprotkb:P02668) and RCMkappa-CN (uniprotkb:P02668) bind (MI:0407) by fluorescence technologies (MI:0051) * MINT-7259878: Amyloid beta (uniprotkb:P05067) and Amyloid beta (uniprotkb:P05067) bind (MI:0407) by fluorescence technologies (MI:0051).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid / chemistry*
  • Benzothiazoles
  • Biological Assay / methods*
  • Curcumin / chemistry
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • Quercetin / chemistry
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Resveratrol
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Stilbenes / chemistry
  • Thiazoles / chemistry*


  • Amyloid
  • Benzothiazoles
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Stilbenes
  • Thiazoles
  • thioflavin T
  • Quercetin
  • Curcumin
  • Resveratrol