Misfolding and aggregation of Cu, Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1) is implicated in neuronal death in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Each SOD1 monomer binds to 1 copper and 1 zinc ion and maintains its disulfide bond (Cys-57-Cys-146) in the reducing cytoplasm of cell. Mounting experimental evidence suggests that metal loss and/or disulfide reduction are important for initiating misfolding and aggregation of SOD1. To uncover the role of metals and the disulfide bond in the SOD1 folding, we systemically study the folding thermodynamics and structural dynamics of SOD1 monomer and dimer with and without metal binding and under disulfide-intact or disulfide-reduced environments in computational simulations. We use all-atom discrete molecular dynamics for sampling. Our simulation results provide dynamical evidence to the stabilizing role of metal ions in both dimer and monomer SOD1. The disulfide bond anchors a loop (Glu-49 to Asn-53) that contributes to the dimer interface. The reduction of the disulfide bond in SOD1 with metal ions depleted results in a flexible Glu-49-Asn-53 loop, which, in turn, disrupts dimer formation. Interestingly, the disulfide bond reduction does not affect the thermostability of monomer SOD1 as significantly as the metal ions do. We further study the structural dynamics of metal-free SOD1 monomers, the precursor for aggregation, in simulations and find inhomogeneous local unfolding of β-strands. The strands protected by the metal-binding and electrostatic loops are found to unfold first after metal loss, leading to a partially unfolded β-sheet prone to aggregation. Our simulation study sheds light on the critical role of metals and disulfide bond in SOD1 folding and aggregation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19696-19701
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 16 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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