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Understanding the pathophysiology of Alzheimer disease has relied upon the use of amyloid peptides from a variety of sources, but most predominantly synthetic peptides produced using t-butyloxycarbonyl (Boc) or 9-fluorenylmethoxycarbonyl (Fmoc) chemistry. These synthetic methods can lead to minor impurities which can have profound effects on the biological activity of amyloid peptides. Here we used a combination of cytotoxicity assays, fibrillation assays and high resolution mass spectrometry (MS) to identify impurities in synthetic amyloid preparations that inhibit both cytotoxicity and aggregation. We identify the Aβ42Δ39 species as the major peptide contaminant responsible for limiting both cytotoxicity and fibrillation of the amyloid peptide. In addition, we demonstrate that the presence of this minor impurity inhibits the formation of a stable Aβ42 dimer observable by MS in very pure peptide samples. These results highlight the critical importance of purity and provenance of amyloid peptides in Alzheimer's research in particular, and biological research in general.


Daniel J Adams, Travis G Nemkov, John P Mayer, William M Old, Michael H B Stowell. Identification of the primary peptide contaminant that inhibits fibrillation and toxicity in synthetic amyloid-β42. PloS one. 2017;12(8):e0182804

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PMID: 28792968

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