Stabilizing osmolytes are known to impact the process of amyloid aggregation, often altering aggregation kinetics. Recent evidence further suggests that osmolytes modify the peptide conformational dynamics, as well as change the physical characteristics of assembling amyloid fibrils. To resolve how these variations emerge on the molecular level, we simulated the initial aggregation steps of an amyloid-forming peptide in the presence and absence of the osmolyte sorbitol, a naturally occurring polyol. To this end, a coarse-grained force field was extended and implemented to access larger aggregate sizes and longer time scales. The force field optimization procedure placed emphasis on calibrating the solution thermodynamics of sorbitol, the aggregating peptide in its monomeric form, and the interaction of both of these components with each other and with water. Our simulations show a difference in aggregation kinetics and structural parameters in the presence of sorbitol compared to water, which qualitatively agree well with our experimentally resolved aggregation kinetics of the same peptide. The kinetic changes induced by sorbitol can be traced in our simulations to changes in monomer conformations resulting from osmolyte presence. These translate into changes in peptide conformations within the aggregated clusters and into differences in rates of monomer nucleation and of association to formed fibrils. We find that, compared to pure water as solvent, the presence of sorbitol induces formation of more aggregates each containing fewer peptides, with an increased tendency toward parallel interpeptide contacts.
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© 2015 American Chemical Society.