Stopped-flow kinetics reveal multiple phases of thioflavin T binding to Alzheimer β(140) amyloid fibrils

Harry LeVine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


The benzothiazole dye thioflavin T (ThT) is a classical amyloid stain for senile plaques containing β/A4 peptide in Alzheimer's disease brain. ThT also binds rapidly and specifically to the anti-parallel β-sheet fibrils formed from synthetic β(1-40) peptide, but does not bind to monomer or oligomeric intermediates. The fibrillar β-sheet-bound dye species undergoes a characteristic 120 nm red shift of its excitation spectrum that may be selectively excited at 450 nm, resulting in a fluorescence signal at 482 nm. Mixing of preformed β(1-40) amyloid fibrils with ThT in a stopped-flow spectrophotometer, monitoring fluorescence emission at >475 nm while exciting at 450 nm, distinguished multiple kinetic phases of roughly equivalent amplitude with τ's in the ranges of 0.007, 0.05, 0.75, and 10-20 s. The fastest reaction appears to reflect a bimolecular dye binding event while the remaining reactions are rate-limited by protein tertiary or quaternary conformational changes. The high activation energies of the three slower reactions support this interpretation. The ThT concentration dependence of the reaction rates at different ratios of ThT/β(1-40) amyloid fibrils rules out a rate-limiting conformational change occurring prior to ligand binding. ThT is a useful probe for the aggregated fibrillar state of β(1-40) amyloid fibrils as the amyloid-specific fluorescence reports only fibrillar species. The binding of ThT does not interfere with the aggregation of this peptide into amyloid fibrils. The putative conformational changes detected by the ThT fluorescence suggest that small pharmacologic ligands can perturb and possibly dissociate Aβ amyloid fibrils.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-316
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Biochemistry and Biophysics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 15 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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