Structural Role of Glycine in Amyloid Fibrils Formed from Transmembrane α-Helices<sup>†</sup>

Amyloid fibrils associated with diseases such as Alzheimer's are often derived from the transmembrane helices of membrane proteins. It is known that the fibrils have a cross-β-sheet structure where main chain hydrogen bonding occurs between β-strands in the direction of the fibril axis. However, the structural basis for how the membrane-spanning helix is converted into a β-sheet or how protofibrils associate into fibrils is not known. Here, we use a model peptide corresponding to a portion of the single transmembrane helix of glycophorin A to investigate the structural role of glycine in amyloid-like fibrils formed from transmembrane helices. Glycophorin A contains a GxxxG motif that is found in many transmembrane sequences including that of the amyloid precursor protein and prion protein. We propose that glycine, which mediates helix interactions in membrane proteins, also provides key packing motifs when it occurs in β-sheets. We show that glycines in the glycophorin A transmembrane helix promote extended β-strand formation when the helix partitions into aqueous environments and stabilize the packing of β-sheets in the formation of amyloid-like fibrils. We demonstrate that fibrillization can be disrupted with a new class of inhibitors that target the molecular grooves created by glycine.