AlphaFold and the amyloid landscape

Francisca Pinheiro, Jaime Santos, Salvador Ventura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Protein aggregation is a widespread phenomenon with important implications in many scientific areas. Although amyloid formation is typically considered as detrimental, functional amyloids that perform physiological roles have been identified in all kingdoms of life. Despite their functional and pathological relevance, the structural details of the majority of molecular species involved in the amyloidogenic process remains elusive. Here, we explore the application of AlphaFold, a highly accurate protein structure predictor, in the field of protein aggregation. While we envision a straightforward application of AlphaFold in assisting the design of globular proteins with improved solubility for biomedical and industrial purposes, the use of this algorithm for predicting the structure of aggregated species seems far from trivial. First, in amyloid diseases, the presence of multiple amyloid polymorphs and the heterogeneity of aggregation intermediates challenges the “one sequence, one structure” paradigm, inherent to sequence-based predictions. Second, aberrant aggregation is not the subject of positive selective pressure, precluding the use of evolutionary-based approaches, which are the core of the AlphaFold pipeline. Instead, amyloid polymorphism seems to be constrained by the need for a defined structure-activity relationship in functional amyloids. They may thus provide a starting point for the application of AlphaFold in the amyloid landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Article number167059
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


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