Current Opinion in Structural Biology vol:16 issue:1 pages:118-126
Recent years have witnessed major advances in our understanding of the structural basis of protein aggregation on several fronts. Firstly, high-resolution structural information that remained elusive for many years was provided by a series of studies of amyloid fibers using NMR, X-ray crystallography and electron microscopy, thereby confirming earlier models based on lower resolution observations. Secondly, studies of the sequence determinants of protein aggregation culminated in the development of computer algorithms that predict aggregation-prone sequences with good accuracy, allowing the design of mutations that reduce aggregation. Thirdly, based on the first results from such predictions and on statistical analysis of naturally occurring aggregating sequences, a picture is emerging in which aggregation-prone sequences are capped by gatekeeper residues that oppose aggregation. In addition to their aggregation-opposing function, it seems that gatekeeper residues are also important in determining chaperone selectivity for strongly aggregating regions. Finally, recent computational and experimental work shows that preventing aggregation does not necessarily mean that amyloid formation is prevented and vice versa. Thus, although aggregation and amyloidosis correlate to a certain extent, they are different processes and should be treated as such.