Solvent Composition Effects on the Structural Properties of the Aβ42 Monomer from the 3D-RISM-KH Molecular Theory of Solvation

J Phys Chem B. 2019 Mar 21;123(11):2491-2506. doi: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.9b00480. Epub 2019 Mar 12.


Structural characterization of amyloid (A)β peptides implicated in Alzheimer's disease is a challenging problem due to their intrinsically disordered nature and their high propensity for aggregation. Only limited information is currently available from experiments on conformational properties and aggregation pathways of the peptides in cellular environments. In silico modeling complements experimental information, providing atomistic insight into structure and dynamics of different Aβ species. All-atom explicit solvent molecular dynamics (MD) simulations with a properly selected force field can deliver reliable structural and dynamic information. In the case of intrinsically disordered Aβ peptides, enhanced sampling simulations beyond the nanosecond time scale are required to obtain statistically meaningful results even for simple solvent conditions. To overcome the challenges of conformational sampling in crowded cellular environments, alternative approaches have to be used, including postprocessing of MD data. In this study, we employ the statistical-mechanical, three-dimensional reference interaction site model with the Kovalenko-Hirata closure integral equation molecular theory of solvation to describe solvent composition effects on the conformational equilibrium in a structural ensemble of the Aβ42 (covering residues 1-42) monomer based on a statistical reweighting technique. The methodology enables a computationally efficient prediction on how different factors in the cellular environment, such as solvent composition, nonpolar solvation, and macromolecular crowding, affect the structural properties of the monomer. Similarities have been identified between changes in the structural ensemble caused by nonpolar solvation and crowded environments modeled by ionic solution with large negative ions. In particular, both solvent conditions reduce the random coil content and enhance the helical structure content of the monomer. In contrast to the previous studies, which reported increased α-helical content of peptides in crowded environments, this work attributes these structural features to the difference in solvent exposure of hydrophilic residues of the monomer for different secondary structure elements, rather than to (entropic) excluded volume effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Intrinsically Disordered Proteins / chemistry
  • Ions / chemistry
  • Models, Chemical
  • Peptide Fragments / chemistry*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary / drug effects
  • Solubility
  • Solvents / chemistry*
  • Thermodynamics


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Intrinsically Disordered Proteins
  • Ions
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Solvents
  • amyloid beta-protein (1-42)