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    Intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) are increasingly found to be associated with irreversible neurodegenerative disorders. The protein tau is a prototypical IDP whose abnormal aggregation into insoluble filaments is a major hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. The view has emerged that aggregation may proceed via alternative pathways involving oligomeric intermediates or phase-separated liquid droplets. Nanoparticles (NPs) offer significant potential for probing the mechanisms of protein fibrillation and may be capable of redirecting conformational transitions. Here, we camouflaged dye-doped silica NPs through functionalization with tau molecules to impart them the ability to associate with protein assemblies such as aggregates or condensates. The prepared NP-tau conjugates showed little influence on the aggregation kinetics and morphology of filamentous aggregates of tau but were found to associate with the filaments. Moreover, NP-tau conjugates were recruited and concentrated into polyanion-induced condensates of tau, driven by multivalent electrostatic interactions, thereby illuminating liquid droplets and their time-dependent transformation, as observed by fluorescence microscopy. NP-tau conjugates were capable of entering human neuroglioma cells and were not cytotoxic. Hence, we propose that NP-tau conjugates could serve as nanotracers for in vitro and in-cell studies to target and visualize tau assemblies and condensates, contributing to an explanation for the molecular mechanisms of abnormal protein aggregation.


    Carlo Giorgio Barracchia, Francesca Parolini, Angela Volpe, Daniele Gori, Francesca Munari, Stefano Capaldi, Mariapina D'Onofrio, Michael Assfalg. Camouflaged Fluorescent Silica Nanoparticles Target Aggregates and Condensates of the Amyloidogenic Protein Tau. Bioconjugate chemistry. 2022 Jul 20;33(7):1261-1268

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    PMID: 35686491

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