The aggregation of numerous peptides or proteins has been linked to the onset of disease, including Aβ (amyloid β-peptide) in AD (Alzheimer's disease), asyn (α-synuclein) in Parkinson's disease and amylin in Type 2 diabetes. Diverse amyloidogenic proteins can often be cut down to an SRE (self-recognition element) of as few as five residues that retains the ability to aggregate. SREs can be used as a starting point for aggregation inhibitors. In particular, N-methylated SREs can bind to a target on one side, but have hydrogen-bonding blocked on their methylated face, interfering with further assembly. We applied this strategy to develop Aβ toxicity inhibitors. Our compounds, and a range of compounds from the literature, were compared under the same conditions, using biophysical and toxicity assays. Two N-methylated D-peptide inhibitors with unnatural side chains were the most effective and can reverse Aβ-induced inhibition of LTP (long-term potentiation) at concentrations as low as 10 nM. An SRE in asyn (VAQKTV) was identified using solid-state NMR. When VAQKTV was N-methylated, it was able to disrupt asyn aggregation. N-methylated derivatives of the SRE of amylin are also able to inhibit amylin aggregation.

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