The Josephin domain determines the morphological and mechanical properties of ataxin-3 fibrils
Authors listLaura Masino Giuseppe Nicastro Alfonso De Simone Lesley Calder Justin Molloy Annalisa Pastore
Fibrillar aggregation of the protein ataxin-3 is linked to the inherited neurodegenerative disorder Spinocerebellar ataxia type 3, a member of the polyQ expansion disease family. We previously reported that aggregation and stability of the nonpathological form of ataxin-3, carrying an unexpanded polyQ tract, are modulated by its N-terminal Josephin domain. It was also shown that expanded ataxin-3 aggregates via a two-stage mechanism initially involving Josephin self-association, followed by a polyQ-dependent step. Despite this recent progress, however, the exact mechanism of ataxin-3 fibrilization remains elusive. Here, we have used electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and other biophysical techniques to characterize the morphological and mechanical properties of nonexpanded ataxin-3 fibrils. By comparing aggregates of ataxin-3 and of the isolated Josephin domain, we show that the two proteins self-assemble into fibrils with markedly similar features over the temperature range 37-50°C. Estimates of persistence length and Young's modulus of the fibrils reveal a great flexibility. Our data indicate that, under physiological conditions, during early aggregation Josephin retains a nativelike secondary structure but loses its enzymatic activity. The results suggest a key role of Josephin in ataxin-3 fibrillar aggregation.