Fmoc-RGDS based fibrils: Atomic details of their hierarchical assembly

We describe the 3D supramolecular structure of Fmoc-RGDS fibrils, where Fmoc and RGDS refer to the hydrophobic N-(fluorenyl-9-methoxycarbonyl) group and the hydrophilic Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser peptide sequence, respectively. For this purpose, we performed atomistic all-atom molecular dynamics simulations of a wide variety of packing modes derived from both parallel and antiparallel β-sheet configurations. The proposed model, which closely resembles the cross-β core structure of amyloids, is stabilized by π-π stacking interactions between hydrophobic Fmoc groups. More specifically, in this organization, the Fmoc-groups of β-strands belonging to the same β-sheet form columns of π-stacked aromatic rings arranged in a parallel fashion. Eight of such columns pack laterally forming a compact and dense hydrophobic core, in which two central columns are surrounded by three adjacent columns on each side. In addition to such Fmoc⋯Fmoc interactions, the hierarchical assembly of the constituent β-strands involves a rich variety of intra- and inter-strand interactions. Accordingly, hydrogen bonding, salt bridges and π-π stacking interactions coexist in the highly ordered packing network proposed for the Fmoc-RGDS amphiphile. Quantum mechanical calculations, which have been performed to quantify the above referred interactions, confirm the decisive role played by the π-π stacking interactions between the rings of the Fmoc groups, even though both inter-strand and intra-strand hydrogen bonds and salt bridges also play a non-negligible role. Overall, these results provide a solid reference to complement the available experimental data, which are not precise enough to determine the fibril structure, and reconcile previous independent observations ​
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