Suppression of amyloid-β fibril growth by drug-engineered polymorph transformation

Sima Mafimoghaddam, Yuechuan Xu, Michael B. Sherman, Elena V. Orlova, Prashant Karki, Mehmet A. Orman, Peter G. Vekilov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fibrillization of the protein amyloid β is assumed to trigger Alzheimer's pathology. Approaches that target amyloid plaques, however, have garnered limited clinical success, and their failures may relate to the scarce understanding of the impact of potential drugs on the intertwined stages of fibrillization. Here, we demonstrate that bexarotene, a T-cell lymphoma medication with known antiamyloid activity both in vitro and in vivo, suppresses amyloid fibrillization by promoting an alternative fibril structure. We employ time-resolved in situ atomic force microscopy to quantify the kinetics of growth of individual fibrils and supplement it with structure characterization by cryo-EM. We show that fibrils with structure engineered by the drug nucleate and grow substantially slower than “normal” fibrils; remarkably, growth remains stunted even in drug-free solutions. We find that the suppression of fibril growth by bexarotene is not because of the drug binding to the fibril tips or to the peptides in the solution. Kinetic analyses attribute the slow growth of drug-enforced fibril polymorph to the distinctive dynamics of peptide chain association to their tips. As an additional benefit, the bexarotene fibrils kill primary rat hippocampal neurons less efficiently than normal fibrils. In conclusion, the suggested drug-driven polymorph transformation presents a mode of action to irreversibly suppress toxic aggregates not only in Alzheimer's but also potentially in myriad diverse pathologies that originate with protein condensation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102662
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • amyloid fibril growth
  • molecular mechanism of fibrillization
  • neurotoxicity
  • suppression of fibrillization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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