Destruction of amyloid fibrils by graphene through penetration and extraction of peptides

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Current therapies for Alzheimer's disease (AD) can provide a moderate symptomatic reduction or delay progression at various stages of the disease, but such treatments ultimately do not arrest the advancement of AD. As such, novel approaches for AD treatment and prevention are urgently needed. We here provide both experimental and computational evidence that pristine graphene and graphene-oxide nanosheets can inhibit Aβ peptide monomer fibrillation and clear mature amyloid fibrils, thus impacting the central molecular superstructures correlated with AD pathogenesis. Our molecular dynamics simulations for the first time reveal that graphene nanosheets can penetrate and extract a large number of peptides from pre-formed amyloid fibrils; these effects seem to be related to exceptionally strong dispersion interactions between peptides and graphene that are further enhanced by strong π-π stacking between the aromatic residues of extracted Aβ peptides and the graphene surface. Atomic force microscopy images confirm these predictions by demonstrating that mature amyloid fibrils can be cut into pieces and cleared by graphene oxides. Thioflavin fluorescence assays further illustrate the detailed dynamic processes by which graphene induces inhibition of monomer aggregation and clearance of mature amyloid fibrils, respectively. Cell viability and ROS assays indicate that graphene oxide can indeed mitigate cytotoxicity of Aβ peptide amyloids. Our findings provide new insights into the underlying molecular mechanisms that define graphene-amyloid interaction and suggest that further research on nanotherapies for Alzheimer's and other protein aggregation-related diseases is warranted.