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A. R. Hurshman Babbes, E. T. Powers, and J. W. Kelly. 2008. Quantification of the Thermodynamically Linked Quaternary and Tertiary Structural Stabilities of Transthyretin and Its Disease-Associated Variants: The Relationship between Stability and Amyloidosis. Biochemistry 47: 6969-6984. Full Article

Urea denaturation studies were carried out as a function of transthyretin (TTR) concentration to quantify the thermodynamically linked quaternary and tertiary structural stability and to improve our understanding of the relationship between mutant folding energetics and amyloid disease phenotype. Urea denaturation of TTR involves at least two equilibria: dissociation of tetramers into folded monomers and monomer unfolding. To deal with the thermodynamic linkage of these equilibria, we analyzed concentration-dependent denaturation data by globally fitting them to an equation that simultaneously accounts for the two-step denaturation process. Using this method, the quaternary and tertiary structural stabilities of well-behaved TTR sequences, wild-type (WT) TTR and the disease-associated variant V122I, were scrutinized. The V122I variant is linked to late onset familial amyloid cardiomyopathy, the most common familial TTR amyloid disease. V122I TTR exhibits a destabilized quaternary structure and a stable tertiary structure relative to those of WT TTR. Three other variants of TTR were also examined, L55P, V30M, and A25T TTR. The L55P mutation is associated with the most aggressive familial TTR amyloid disease. L55P TTR has a complicated denaturation pathway that includes dimers and trimers, so globally fitting its concentration-dependent urea denaturation data yielded error-laden estimates of stability parameters. Nevertheless, it is clear that L55P TTR is substantially less stable than WT TTR, primarily because its tertiary structure is unstable, although its quaternary structure is destabilized as well. V30M is the most common mutation associated with neuropathic forms of TTR amyloid disease. V30M TTR is certainly destabilized relative to WT TTR, but like L55P TTR, it has a complex denaturation pathway that cannot be fit to the aforementioned two-step denaturation model. Literature data suggest that V30M TTR has stable quaternary structure but unstable tertiary structure. The A25T mutant, associated with central nervous system amyloidosis, is highly aggregation-prone and exhibits drastically reduced quaternary and tertiary structural stabilities. The observed differences in stability among the disease-associated TTR variants highlight the complexity and heterogeneity of TTR amyloid disease, an observation that has important implications for the treatment of these maladies.

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