Graphene oxide sheets and quantum dots inhibit α-synuclein amyloid formation by different mechanisms†
Aggregation and amyloid formation of the 140-residue presynaptic and intrinsically disordered protein α-synuclein (α-syn) is a pathological hallmark of Parkinson's disease (PD). Understanding how α-syn forms amyloid fibrils, and investigations of agents that can prevent their formation is therefore important. We demonstrate herein that two types of graphene oxide nanoparticles (sheets and quantum dots) inhibit α-syn amyloid formation by different mechanisms mediated via differential interactions with both monomers and fibrils. We have used thioflavin-T fluorescence assays and kinetic analysis, circular dichroism, dynamic light scattering, fluorescence spectroscopy and atomic force microscopy to asses the kinetic nature and efficiency of this inhibitory effect. We show that the two types of graphene oxide nanoparticles alter the morphology of α-syn fibrils, disrupting their interfilament assembly and the resulting aggregates therefore consist of single protofilaments. Our results further show that graphene oxide sheets reduce the aggregation rate of α-syn primarily by sequestering of monomers, thereby preventing primary nucleation and elongation. Graphene quantum dots, on the other hand, interact less avidly with both monomers and fibrils. Their aggregation inhibitory effect is primarily related to adsorption of aggregated species and reduction of secondary processes, and they can thus not fully prevent aggregation. This fine-tuned and differential effect of graphene nanoparticles on amyloid formation shows that rational design of these nanomaterials has great potential in engineering materials that interact with specific molecular events in the amyloid fibril formation process. The findings also provide new insight into the molecular interplay between amyloidogenic proteins and graphene-based nanomaterials in general, and opens up their potential use as agents to manipulate fibril formation.