Effect of Varying Concentrations of Docosahexaenoic Acid on Amyloid Beta (1⁻42) Aggregation: An Atomic Force Microscopy Study

Molecules. 2018 Nov 27;23(12):3089. doi: 10.3390/molecules23123089.


Healthcare has advanced significantly, bringing with it longer life expectancies and a growing population of elders who suffer from dementia, specifically Alzheimer's disease (AD). The amyloid beta (Aβ) peptide has been implicated in the cause of AD, where the peptides undergo a conformational change and form neurotoxic amyloid oligomers which cause neuronal cell death. While AD has no cure, preventative measures are being designed to either slow down or stop the progression of this neurodegenerative disease. One of these measures involves dietary supplements with polyunsaturated fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). This omega-3 fatty acid is a key component of brain development and has been suggested to reduce the progression of cognitive decline. However, different studies have yielded different results as to whether DHA has positive, negative, or no effects on Aβ fibril formation. We believe that these discrepancies can be explained with varying concentrations of DHA. Here, we test the inhibitory effect of different concentrations of DHA on amyloid fibril formation using atomic force microscopy. Our results show that DHA has a strong inhibitory effect on Aβ1⁻42 fibril formation at lower concentrations (50% reduction in fibril length) than higher concentrations above its critical micelle concentration (70% increase in fibril length and three times the length of those at lower concentrations). We provide evidence that various concentrations of DHA can play a role in the inhibitory effects of amyloid fibril formation in vitro and help explain the discrepancies observed in previous studies.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid; amyloid fibrils; amyloid-beta Aβ; atomic force microscopy; docosahexaenoic acid; omega-3; polyunsaturated fatty acid.

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid / chemistry*
  • Amyloid / ultrastructure
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / chemistry*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / chemistry*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force*
  • Peptide Fragments / chemistry*
  • Protein Aggregates*


  • Amyloid
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Protein Aggregates
  • amyloid beta-protein (1-42)
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids