Direct observation of amyloid nucleation under nanomechanical stretching. Academic Article uri icon


  • Self-assembly of amyloid nanofiber is associated with both functional biological and pathological processes such as those in neurodegenerative diseases. Despite intensive studies, the stochastic nature of the process has made it difficult to elucidate a molecular mechanism for the key amyloid nucleation event. Here we investigated nucleation of the silk-elastin-like peptide (SELP) amyloid using time-lapse lateral force microscopy (LFM). By repeated scanning of a single line on a SELP-coated mica surface, we observed a sudden stepwise height increase. This corresponds to nucleation of an amyloid fiber, which subsequently grew perpendicular to the scanning direction. The lateral force profiles followed either a worm-like chain model or an exponential function, suggesting that the atomic force microscopy (AFM) tip stretches a single or multiple SELP molecules along the scanning direction. The probability of nucleation correlated with the maximum stretching force and extension, implying that stretching of SELP molecules is a key molecular event for amyloid nucleation. The mechanically induced nucleation allows for positional and directional control of amyloid assembly in vitro, which we demonstrate by generating single nanofibers at predetermined nucleation sites.

published proceedings

  • ACS Nano

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Varongchayakul, N., Johnson, S., Quabili, T., Cappello, J., Ghandehari, H., Solares, S., Hwang, W., & Seog, J.

citation count

  • 18

complete list of authors

  • Varongchayakul, Nitinun||Johnson, Sara||Quabili, Trina||Cappello, Joseph||Ghandehari, Hamidreza||Solares, Santiago De Jesus||Hwang, Wonmuk||Seog, Joonil

publication date

  • September 2013