Journal Logo Probing The Mechanism of Insulin Fibril Formation with Insulin Mutants

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Genetics, Monomers, Nanofibers, Peptides and Proteins, Ph

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The molecular basis of insulin fibril formation was investigated by studying the structural properties and kinetics of fibril formation of 20 different human insulin mutants at both low pH (conditions favoring monomer/dimer) and at pH 7.4 (conditions favoring tetramer/hexamer). Small-angle X-ray scattering showed insulin to be monomeric in 20% acetic acid, 0.1 M NaCl, pH 2. The secondary structure of the mutants was assessed using far-UV circular dichroism, and the tertiary structure was determined using near-UV circular dichroism, quenching of intrinsic fluorescence by acrylamide and interactions with the hydrophobic probe 1-anilino-8-naphthalene-sulfonic acid (ANS). The kinetics of fibril formation were monitored with the fluorescent dye, Thioflavin T. The results indicate that the monomer is the state from which fibrils arise, thus under some conditions dissociation of hexamers may be rate limiting or partially rate limiting. The insulin mutants were found to retain substantial nativelike secondary and tertiary structure under all conditions studied. The results suggest that fibril formation of the insulin mutants is controlled by specific molecular interactions that are sensitive to variations in the primary structure. The observed effects of several mutations on the rate of fibril formation are inconsistent with a previously suggested model for fibrillation [Brange, J., Whittingham, J., Edwards, D., Youshang, Z., Wollmer, A., Brandenburg, D., Dodson, G., and Finch, J. (1997) Curr. Sci. 72, 470−476]. Two surfaces on the insulin monomer are identified as potential interacting sites in insulin fibrils, one consisting of the residues B10, B16, and B17 and the other consisting of at least the residues A8 and B25. The marked increase in the lag time for fibril formation with mutations to more polar residues, as well as mutations to charged residues, demonstrates the importance of both hydrophobic and electrostatic interactions in the initial stages of fibrillation. A model for insulin fibril formation is proposed in which the formation of a partially folded intermediate is the precursor for associated species on the pathway to fibril formation.

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Biochemistry, v. 40, issue 28, p. 8397-8409