The crystal structure of the amyloidogenic Leu-55Pro transthyretin (TTR) variant has revealed an oligomer structure that may represent a putative amyloid protofibril [Sebastião, Saraiva and Damas (1998) J. Biol. Chem. 273, 24715–24722]. Here we report biochemical evidence that corroborates the isolation of an intermediate structure, an ‘amyloid-like’ oligomer, which is most probably present in the biochemical pathway that leads to amyloid deposition and that was isolated by the crystallization of the Leu-55Pro TTR variant. 4´-Iodo-4´-deoxydoxorubicin (IDOX) is a compound that interacts with amyloid fibrils of various compositions and it has been reported to reduce the amyloid load in immunoglobulin light chain amyloidosis [Merlini, Ascari, Amboldi, Bellotti, Arbustini, Perfetti, Ferrari, Zorzoli, Marinone, Garini et al. (1995) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 92, 2959–2963]. In this work, we observed that the monoclinic Leu-55Pro TTR crystals, soaked with IDOX, undergo rapid dissociation. Moreover, under the same conditions, the orthorhombic wild-type TTR crystals are quite stable. This is explained by the different TTR conformations isolated upon crystallization of the two proteins; while the Leu-55Pro TTR exhibits the necessary conformation for IDOX binding, the same structure is not present in the crystallized wild-type protein. A theoretical model concerning the interaction of Leu-55Pro TTR with IDOX, which is consistent with the dissociation of the amyloid-like oligomer, is presented. In this model the IDOX iodine atom is buried in a pocket located between the two β-sheets of the Leu-55Pro TTR monomer with the IDOX aromatic-moiety long axis nearly perpendicular to the direction of the β-sheets.

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