Quantitative understanding of the kinetics of fibril formation and the molecular mechanism of transition from monomers to fibrils is needed to obtain insights into the growth of amyloid fibrils and more generally self-assembly multisubunit protein complexes. Significant advances using computations of protein aggregation in a number of systems have established generic and sequence-specific aspects of the early steps in oligomer formation. Theoretical considerations, which view oligomer and fibril growth as diffusion in a complex energy landscape, and computational studies, involving minimal lattice and coarse-grained models, have revealed general principles governing the transition from monomeric protein to ordered fibrillar aggregates. Detailed atomistic calculations have explored the early stages of the protein aggregation pathway for a number of amyloidogenic proteins, most notably amyloid β- (Aβ-) protein and fragments from proteins linked to various diseases. These computational studies have provided insights into the role of sequence, role of water, and specific interatomic interactions underlying the thermodynamics and dynamics of elementary kinetic steps in the aggregation pathway. Novel methods are beginning to illustrate the structural basis for the production of Aβ-peptides through interactions with secretases in the presence of membranes. We show that a variety of theoretical approaches, ranging from scaling arguments to minimal models to atomistic simulations, are needed as a complement to experimental studies probing the principles governing protein aggregation.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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