The amphipathicity of the natively unstructured amyloid-beta (Abeta40) peptide may play an important role in its aggregation into beta-sheet rich fibrils, which is linked to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. Using the air/subphase interface as a model interface, we characterized Abeta's surface activity and its conformation, assembly, and morphology at the interface. Abeta readily adsorbed to the air/subphase interface to form a 20 A thick film and showed a critical micelle concentration of approximately 120 nM. Abeta adsorbed at the air/subphase exhibited in-plane ordering that gave rise to Bragg peaks in grazing-incidence x-ray diffraction measurements. Analysis of the peaks showed that the air/subphase interface induced Abeta to fold into a beta-sheet conformation and to self-assemble into approximately 100 A-sized ordered clusters. The formation of these clusters at the air/subphase interface was not affected by pH, salts, or the presence of sucrose or urea, which are known to stabilize or denature native proteins, suggesting that interface-driven Abeta misfolding and assembly are strongly favored. Furthermore, Abeta at the interface seeded the growth of fibrils in the bulk with a distinct morphology compared to those formed by homogeneous nucleation. Our results indicate that interface-induced Abeta misfolding may serve as a heterogeneous, nucleation-controlled aggregation mechanism for Abeta fibrillogenesis in vivo.
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