Amyloid diseases represent a growing social and economic burden in the developed world. Understanding the assembly pathway and the inhibition of amyloid formation is key to developing therapies to treat these diseases. The neurodegenerative condition Machado-Joseph disease is characterised by the self-aggregation of the protein ataxin-3. Ataxin-3 consists of a globular N-terminal Josephin domain, which can aggregate into curvilinear protofibrils, and an unstructured, dynamically disordered C-terminal domain containing three ubiquitin interacting motifs separated by a polyglutamine stretch. Upon expansion of the polyglutamine region above 50 residues, ataxin-3 undergoes a second stage of aggregation in which long, straight amyloid fibrils form. A peptide inhibitor of polyglutamine aggregation, known as polyQ binding peptide 1, has been shown previously to prevent the maturation of ataxin-3 fibrils. However, the mechanism of this inhibition remains unclear. Using nanoelectrospray ionisation-mass spectrometry, we demonstrate that polyQ binding peptide 1 binds to monomeric ataxin-3. By investigating the ability of polyQ binding peptide 1 to bind to truncated ataxin-3 constructs lacking one or more domains, we localise the site of this interaction to a 39-residue sequence immediately C-terminal to the Josephin domain. The results suggest a new mechanism for the inhibition of polyglutamine aggregation by polyQ binding peptide 1 in which binding to a region outside of the polyglutamine tract can prevent fibril formation, highlighting the importance of polyglutamine flanking regions in controlling aggregation and disease.
Keywords: Electrospray ionisation; ataxin-3; inhibition of amyloid assembly; ion mobility spectrometry-mass spectrometry; native mass spectrometry; polyQ binding protein 1; polyglutamine.