The increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is associated with the APOE gene, which encodes for three variants of Apolipoprotein E, namely E2, E3, E4, differing only by two amino acids at positions 112 and 158. ApoE4 is known to be the strongest risk factor for AD onset, while ApoE3 and ApoE2 are considered to be the AD-neutral and AD-protective isoforms, respectively. It has been hypothesized that the ApoE isoforms may contribute to the development of AD by modifying the homeostasis of ApoE physiological partners and AD-related proteins in an isoform-specific fashion. Here we find that, despite the high sequence similarity among the three ApoE variants, only ApoE4 exhibits a misfolded intermediate state characterized by isoform-specific domain-domain interactions in molecular dynamics simulations. The existence of an ApoE4-specific intermediate state can contribute to the onset of AD by altering multiple cellular pathways involved in ApoE-dependent lipid transport efficiency or in AD-related protein aggregation and clearance. We present what we believe to be the first structural model of an ApoE4 misfolded intermediate state, which may serve to elucidate the molecular mechanism underlying the role of ApoE4 in AD pathogenesis. The knowledge of the structure for the ApoE4 folding intermediate provides a new platform for the rational design of alternative therapeutic strategies to fight AD.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Modeling and Simulation
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Computational Theory and Mathematics