Amyloid formation of bovine insulin is retarded in moderately acidic pH and by addition of short-chain alcohols
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2020
Protein aggregation and amyloid formation are associated with multiple human diseases, but are also a problem in protein production. Understanding how aggregation can be modulated is therefore of importance in both medical and industrial contexts. We have used bovine insulin as a model protein to explore how amyloid formation is affected by buffer pH and by the addition of short-chain alcohols. We find that bovine insulin forms amyloid fibrils, albeit with different rates and resulting fibril morphologies, across a wide pH range (2-7). At pH 4.0, bovine insulin displayed relatively low aggregation propensity in combination with high solubility; this condition was therefore chosen as basis for further exploration of how bovine insulin's native state can be stabilized in the presence of short-chain alcohols that are relevant because of their common use as eluents in industrial-scale chromatography purification. We found that ethanol and isopropanol are efficient modulators of bovine insulin aggregation, providing a three to four times retardation of the aggregation kinetics at 30-35% (vol/vol) concentration; we attribute this to the formation of oligomers, which we detected by AFM. We discuss this effect in terms of reduced solvent polarity and show, by circular dichroism recordings, that a concomitant change in alpha-helical packing of the insulin monomer occurs in ethanol. Our results extend current knowledge of how insulin aggregates, and may, although bovine insulin serves as a simplistic model, provide insights into how buffers and additives can be fine-tuned in industrial production of proteins in general and pharmaceutical insulin in particular.