Phenolsulfonphthalein, but not phenolphthalein, inhibits amyloid fibril formation: Implications for the modulation of amyloid self-assembly

Michal Levy, Yair Porat, Eran Bacharach, Deborah E. Shalev, Ehud Gazit*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The study of the mechanism of amyloid fibril formation and its inhibition is of key medical importance due to the lack of amyloid assembly inhibitors that are approved for clinical use. We have previously demonstrated the potent inhibitory potential of phenolsulfonphthalein, a nontoxic compound that was approved for diagnostic use in human subjects, on aggregation of islet amyloid polypeptide (IAPP) that is associated with type 2 diabetes. Here, we extend our studies on the mechanism of action of phenolsulfonphthalein by comparing its antiamyloidogenic effect to a very similar compound that is also approved for human use, phenolphthalein. While these compounds have very similar primary chemical structures, they significantly differ in their three-dimensional conformation. Our results clearly demonstrated that these two compounds had completely different inhibitory potencies: While phenolsulfonphthalein was a very potent inhibitor of amyloid fibril formation by IAPP, Phenolphthalein did not show significant antiamyloidogenic activity. This behavior was observed with a short amyloid fragment of IAPP and also with the full-length polypeptide. The NMR spectrum of IAPP20-29 in the presence of phenolsulfonphthalein showed chemical shift deviations that were different from the unbound or phenolphthalein-bound peptide. Differential activity was also observed in the inhibition of insulin amyloid formation by these two compounds, and density-gradient experiments clearly demonstrated the different inhibitory effect of the two compounds on the formation of prefibrillar assemblies. Taken together, our studies suggest that the three-dimensional arrangement of the polyphenol phenolsulfonphthalein has a central role in its amyloid formation inhibition activity.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)5896-5904
Number of pages9
Issue number22
StatePublished - 3 Jun 2008


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