HBC revised-MMRThe discovery of stable amyloids composed solely of polar residues surprised scholars who believed that protein conformational stability is chiefly due to the hydrophobic effect. These amyloids, rich in Asn and Gln residues, form extensive hydrogen bonding networks. When aligned, hydrogen bond networks are strengthened due to cooperative effects arising from hyperpolarization. In this work, Density Functional Theory and Natural Bonding Orbital analysis were applied to study a series of polar and hydrophobic peptides in amyloid-like oligomers of different sizes and revealed that hydrogen bond networks formed by Asn and Gln side chains experience a distinct class of cooperativity that strengthens them significantly relative to main chain hydrogen bond networks. These computational results were corroborated experimentally utilizing recognition by amyloid specific molecular probes, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and experimental electric conductivity measurements on Asn/Gln-rich and hydrophobic peptides. On the basis of these findings, approaches to selectively inhibit the formation of polar versus hydrophobic amyloids can now be devised.

The figure shows a schematic representation of the delocalized electron density (blue shading) in the H-bond networks formed by Asn side chains (left) and the peptide backbone (right).

Miguel Mompeán, Aurora Nogales, Tiberio A. Ezquerra & Douglas V. Laurents ( "Complex System Assembly Underlies a Two-Tiered Model of Highly Delocalized Electrons" J. Phys. Chem. Lett. (2016) 7(10): 1859-1864.