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protein aggregation

Sunday 7 March 2004

Aggregation is a complex multi-step process of protein conformational change and accretion. The early species in this process might be most toxic, perhaps through the exposure of buried moieties such as main chain NH and CO groups that could serve as hydrogen bond donors or acceptors in abnormal interactions with other cellular proteins.


- Abnormal or misfolded proteins may deposit in tissues and interfere with normal functions. The deposits can be intracellular, extracellular, or both, and there is accumulating evidence that the aggregates may either directly or indirectly cause the pathologic changes. Certain forms of amyloidosis fall in this category of diseases. These disorders are sometimes called proteinopathies or protein-aggregation diseases.

- Abnormal protein aggregation is a common characteristic of many neurodegenerative diseases of the brain. Filamentous deposits made of the microtubule-associated protein tau constitute a major defining characteristic of several neurodegenerative diseases known as tauopathies.

- In tauopathies, tau aggregation (TAU) is directly associated with development of neurodegeneration and neuronal death.


Aggregation of proteins in the brain is a common theme in a diverse group of disorders.

The aggregation of tau (MAPT) in Alzheimer disease and various tauopathies is but one example of abnormal protein-protein interactions that result in the intracellular accumulation of filamentous proteins.

Abnormal protein aggregation is observed in a large number of neurodegenerative disorders
- Alzheimer disease (AD) is characterized by the extracellular accumulation of Aβ fibrils in the form of amyloid plaques;
- Lewy body disorders contain intracytoplasmic filamentous aggregates of α-synuclein;
- trinucleotide repeat disorders have intranuclear inclusions composed of fibrous polyglutamines;
- spongiform encephalopathies demonstrate aggregates of proteinase-resistant prion protein.

See also

- protein aggregates


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- Ross CA, Poirier MA. Opinion: What is the role of protein aggregation in neurodegeneration? Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2005 Nov;6(11):891-8. PMID: 16167052

- Ross CA, Poirier MA. Protein aggregation and neurodegenerative disease. Nat Med. 2004 Jul;10 Suppl:S10-7. PMID: 15272267

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- Horwich A: Protein aggregation in disease: a role for folding intermediates forming specific multimeric interactions. J Clin Invest 110:1221, 2002.