The increasing number of amyloid structures offers an opportunity to investigate the general principles determining amyloid stability and polymorphism. We find that amyloid stability is dominated by ∼30% of residues localized in segments that favor the cross-β conformation. These correspond to known aggregation-nucleating regions and constitute a stabilizing cross-β structural framework that is shared among polymorphs. Alternative packing of these segments with structurally frustrated regions within the protofilament results in conformationally different, but energetically similar, polymorphs. Differential analysis of distributions of interatomic distances in amyloid and globular structures revealed that unconventional residue contacts, such as identical charges in close proximity, are located in energetically frustrated segments of amyloids. These observations suggest that polymorphism results from a framework mechanism consisting of conserved stabilizing regions of high cross-β propensity. These are interspersed by structurally suboptimal regions that are potential sites of conformational plasticity and interaction with stabilizing cofactors such as (poly)ions.
Keywords: FoldX; aggregation; aggregation-prone regions; amyloid polymorphism; amyloid strains; amyloid-fibril structures; cryo-EM; fibril stability; solid-state NMR; thermodynamic stability.
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