UV Resonance Raman explores protein structural modification upon fibrillation and ligand interaction

Biophys J. 2021 Aug 30;S0006-3495(21)00698-6. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2021.08.032. Online ahead of print.


Amyloids are proteinaceous deposits considered an underlying pathological hallmark of several degenerative diseases. The mechanism of amyloid formation and its inhibition still represent challenging issues, especially when protein structure cannot be investigated by classical biophysical techniques as for the intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs). In this view, the need to find an alternative way for providing molecular and structural information regarding IDPs prompted us to set a novel, to our knowledge, approach focused on UV Resonance Raman (UVRR) spectroscopy. To test its applicability, we study the fibrillation of hen-egg white lysozyme (HEWL) and insulin as well as their interaction with resveratrol, employing also intrinsic fluorescence spectroscopy, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, and atomic force microscopy (AFM). The increasing of the β-sheet structure content at the end of protein fibrillation probed by FTIR occurs simultaneously with a major solvent exposure of tryptophan (Trp) and tyrosine (Tyr) residues of HEWL and insulin, respectively, as revealed by UVRR and intrinsic fluorescence spectroscopy. However, because the latter technique is successfully used when proteins naturally contain Trp residues, it shows poor performances in the case of insulin, and the information regarding its tertiary structure is exclusively provided by UVRR spectroscopy. The presence of an increased concentration of resveratrol induces mild changes in the secondary structure of both protein fibrils while remodeling HEWL fibril length and promoting the formation of amorphous aggregates in the case of insulin. Although the intrinsic fluorescence spectra of proteins are hidden by resveratrol signal, UVRR Trp and Tyr bands are resonantly enhanced, showing a good sensitivity to the presence of resveratrol and marking a modification in the noncovalent interactions in which they are involved. Our findings demonstrate that UVRR is successfully employed in the study of aggregation-prone proteins and of their interaction with ligands, especially in the case of Trp-lacking proteins.