Pathways of amyloid-beta absorption and aggregation in a membranous environment
Aggregation of misfolded oligomeric amyloid-beta (Aβ) peptides on lipid membranes has been identified as a primary event in Alzheimer's pathogenesis. However, the structural and dynamical features of this membrane assisted Aβ aggregation have not been well characterized. The microscopic characterization of dynamic molecular-level interactions in peptide aggregation pathways has been challenging both computationally and experimentally. In this work, we explore differential patterns of membrane-induced Aβ 16–22 (K–L–V–F–F–A–E) aggregation from the microscopic perspective of molecular interactions. Physics-based coarse-grained molecular dynamics (CG-MD) simulations were employed to investigate the effect of lipid headgroup charge – zwitterionic (1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine: POPC) and anionic (1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phospho-L-serine: POPS) – on Aβ 16–22 peptide aggregation. Our analyses present an extensive overview of multiple pathways for peptide absorption and biomechanical forces governing peptide folding and aggregation. In agreement with experimental observations, anionic POPS molecules promote extended configurations in Aβ peptides that contribute towards faster emergence of ordered β-sheet-rich peptide assemblies compared to POPC, suggesting faster fibrillation. In addition, lower cumulative rates of peptide aggregation in POPS due to higher peptide–lipid interactions and slower lipid diffusion result in multiple distinct ordered peptide aggregates that can serve as nucleation seeds for subsequent Aβ aggregation. This study provides an in-silico assessment of experimentally observed aggregation patterns, presents new morphological insights and highlights the importance of lipid headgroup chemistry in modulating the peptide absorption and aggregation process.