Posts Tagged ‘Transthyretin-related hereditary amyloidosis’

Voluntary and Involuntary S- Insufficiency

Writer and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP 

Transthyretin and the Stressful Condition


This article is written among a series of articles concerned with stress, obesity, diet and exercise, as well as altitude and deep water diving for extended periods, and their effects.  There is a reason that I focus on transthyretin (TTR), although much can be said about micronutients and vitamins, and fat soluble vitamins in particular, and iron intake during pregnancy.    While the importance of vitamins and iron are well accepted, the metabolic basis for their activities is not fully understood.  In the case of a single amino acid, methionine, it is hugely important because of the role it plays in sulfur metabolism, the sulfhydryl group being essential for coenzyme A, cytochrome c, and for disulfide bonds.  The distribution of sulfur, like the distribution of iodine, is not uniform across geographic regions.  In addition, the content of sulfur found in plant sources is not comparable to that in animal protein.  There have been previous articles at this site on TTR, amyloid and sepsis.

Transthyretin and Lean Body Mass in Stable and Stressed State

A Second Look at the Transthyretin Nutrition Inflammatory Conundrum

Stabilizers that prevent transthyretin-mediated cardiomyocyte amyloidotic toxicity

Thyroid Function and Disorders

Proteomics, Metabolomics, Signaling Pathways, and Cell Regulation: a Compilation of Articles in the Journal

Malnutrition in India, high newborn death rate and stunting of children age under five years

Vegan Diet is Sulfur Deficient and Heart Unhealthy

How Methionine Imbalance with Sulfur-Insufficiency Leads to Hyperhomocysteinemia

Amyloidosis with Cardiomyopathy

Advances in Separations Technology for the “OMICs” and Clarification of Therapeutic Targets

Sepsis, Multi-organ Dysfunction Syndrome, and Septic Shock: A Conundrum of Signaling Pathways Cascading Out of Control

Automated Inferential Diagnosis of SIRS, sepsis, septic shock

Transthyretin and the Systemic Inflammatory Response 

Transthyretin has been widely used as a biomarker for identifying protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) and for monitoring the improvement of nutritional status after implementing a nutritional intervention by enteral feeding or by parenteral infusion. This has occurred because transthyretin (TTR) has a rapid removal from the circulation in 48 hours and it is readily measured by immunometric assay. Nevertheless, concerns have been raised about the use of TTR in the ICU setting, which prompts a review of the actual benefit of using this test in a number of settings. TTR is easily followed in the underweight and the high risk populations in an ambulatory setting, which has a significant background risk of chronic diseases.  It is sensitive to the systemic inflammatory response syndrom (SIRS), and needs to be understood in the context of acute illness to be used effectively. There are a number of physiologic changes associated with SIRS and the injury/repair process that will affect TTR and will be put in context in this review. The most important point is that in the context of an ICU setting, the contribution of TTR is significant in a complex milieu.  copyright @ Bentham Publishers Ltd. 2009.

Transthyretin as a marker to predict outcome in critically ill patients.
Arun Devakonda, Liziamma George, Suhail Raoof, Adebayo Esan, Anthony Saleh, Larry H. Bernstein.
Clin Biochem Oct 2008; 41(14-15): 1126-1130

A determination of TTR level is an objective method od measuring protein catabolic loss of severly ill patients and numerous studies show that TTR levels correlate with patient outcomes of non-critically ill patients. We evaluated whether TTR level correlates with the prevalence of PEM in the ICUand evaluated serum TTR level as an indicator of the effectiveness of nutrition support and the prognosis in critically ill patients.

TTR showed excellent concordance with patients classified with PEM or at high malnutrition risk, and followed for 7 days, it is a measure of the metabolic burden. TTR levels did not respond early to nutrition support because of the delayed return to anabolic status. It is particularly helpful in removing interpretation bias, and it is an excellent measure of the systemic inflammatory response concurrent with a preexisting state of chronic inanition.

 The Stressful Condition as a Nutritionally Dependent Adaptive Dichotomy

Yves Ingenbleek and Larry Bernstein
Nutrition 1999;15(4):305-320 PII S0899-9007(99)00009-X

The injured body manifests a cascade of cytokine-induced metabolic events aimed at developing defense mechanisms and tissue repair. Rising concentrations of counterregulatory hormones work in concert with cytokines to generate overall insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), postreceptor resistance and energy requirements grounded on lipid dependency. Dalient features are self-sustained hypercortisolemia persisting as long as cytokines are oversecreted and down-regulation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-thyroid axis stabilized at low basal levels. Inhibition of thyroxine 5’deiodinating activity (5’DA) accounts for the depressed T3 values associated with the sparing of both N and energy-consuming processes. Both the liver and damaged territories adapt to stressful signals along up-regulated pathways disconnected from the central and peripheral control systems. Cytokines stimulate 5’DA and suppress the synthesis of TTR, causing the drop of retinol-binding protein (RBP) and the leakage of increased amounts of T4 and retinol in free form. TTR and RBP thus work as prohormonal reservoirs of precursor molecules which need to be converted into bioactive derivatives (T3 and retinoic acids) to reach transcriptional efficiency. The converting steps (5’DA and cellular retinol-binding protein-1) are activated to T4 and retinol, themselves operating as limiting factors to positive feedback loops. …The suicidal behavior of TBG, CBG, and IGFBP-3 allows the occurrence of peak endocrine and mitogenic influences at the site of inflammation. The production rate of TTR by the liver is the main determinant of both the hepatic release and blood transport of holoRBP, which explains why poor nutritional status concomitantly impairs thyroid- and retinoid-dependent acute phase responses, hindering the stressed body to appropriately face the survival crisis.  …
abbreviations: TBG, thyroxine-binding globulain; CBG, cortisol-binding globulin; IGFBP-3, insulin growth factor binding protein-3; TTR, transthyretin; RBP, retionol-binding protein.

Why Should Plasma Transthyretin Become a Routine Screening Tool in Elderly Persons? 

Yves Ingenbleek.
J Nutrition, Health & Aging 2009.

The homotetrameric TTR molecule (55 kDa as MM) was first identified in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).  The initial name of prealbumin (PA)  was assigned based on the electrophoretic migration anodal to albumin. PA was soon recognized as a specific binding protein for thyroid hormone. and also of plasma retinol through the mediation of the small retinol-binding protein (RBP, 21 kDa as MM), which has a circulating half-life half that of TTR (24 h vs 48 h).

There exist at least 3 goos reasons why TTR should become a routine medical screening test in elderly persons.  The first id grounded on the assessment of protein nutritional status that is frequently compromized and may become a life threatening condition.  TTR was proposed as a marker of protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) in 1972. As a result of protein and energy deprivation, TTR hepatic synthesis is suppressed whereas all plasma indispensable amino acids (IAAs) manifest declining trends with the sole exception of methionine (Met) whose concentration usually remains unmodified. By comparison with ALB and transferrin (TF) plasma values, TTR did reveal a much higher degree of reactivity to changes in protein status that has been attributed to its shorter biological half-life and to its unusual tryptophan richness. The predictive ability of outcome offered by TTR is independent of that provided by ALB and TF. Uncomplicated PEM primarily affects the size of body nitrogen (N) pools, allowing reduced protein syntheses to levels compatible with survival.  These adaptiver changes are faithfully identified by the serial measurement of TTR whose reliability has never been disputed in protein-depleted states. On the contrary, the nutritional relevance of TTR has been controverted in acute and chronic inflammatory conditions due to the cytokine-induced transcriptional blockade of liver synthesis which is an obligatory step occurring independently from the prevailing nutritional status. Although PEM and stress ful disorders refer to distinct pathogenic mechanisms, their combined inhibitory effects on TTR liber production fueled a long-lasting strife regarding a poor specificity.  Recent body compositional studies have contributed to disentagling these intermingled morbidities, showing that evolutionary patterns displayed by plasma TTR are closely correlated with the fluctuations of lean body mass (LBM).

The second reason follows from advances describing the unexpected relationship established between TTR and homocysteine (Hcy), a S-containing AA not found in customary diets but resulting from the endogenous transmethylation of dietary methionine.  Hcy may be recycled to Met along a remethylation pathway (RM) or irreversibly degraded throughout the transsulfuration (TS) cascade to relase sulfaturia as end-product. Hcy is thus situated at the crossrad of RM and TS pathways which are in equilibrium keeping plasma Met values unaltered.  Three dietary water soluble B viatamins are implicated in the regulation of the Hcy-Met cycle. Folates (vit B9) are the most powerful agent, working as a supplier of the methyl group required for the RM process whereas cobalamines (vit B12) and pyridoxine (vit B6) operate as cofactors of Met-synthase and cystathionine-β-synthase.  Met synthase promotes the RM pathway whereas the rate-limiting CβS governs the TS degradative cascade. Dietary deficiency in any of the 3 vitamins may upregulate Hcy plasma values, an acquied biochemiucal anomaly increasingly encountered in aged populations.

The third reason refers to recent and fascinating data recorded in neurobiology and emphasizing the specific properties of TTR in the prevention of brain deterioration. TTR participates directly in the maintenance of memory and normal cognitive processes during the aging process by acting on the retinoid signaling pathway.  Moreover, TTR may bind amyloid β peptide in vitro, preventing its transformation into toxic amyloid fibrils and amyloid plaques.  TTR works as a limiting factor for the plasma transport of retinoid, which in turn operates as a limiting determinant of both physiologically active retinoic acid (RA) derivatives, implying that any fluctuation in protein status might well entail corresponding  alterations in cellular bioavailability of retinoid compounds.  Under normal aging circumstances, the concentration of retinoid compounds declines in cerebral tissues together with the downregulation of RA receptor expression. In animal models, depletion of RAs causes the deposition of amyloid-β peptides, favoring the formation of amyloid plaques.

Prealbumin and Nutritional Evaluation

Larry Bernstein, Walter Pleban
Nutrition Apr 1996; 12(4):255-259.

We compressed 16-test-pattern classes of albumin (ALB), cholesterol (CHOL), and total protein (TPR) in 545 chemistry profiles to 4 classes by conveerting decision values to a number code to separate malnourished (1 or 2) from nonmalnourished (NM)(0) patients using as cutoff values for NM (0), mild (1), and moderate (2): ALB 35, 27 g/L; TPR 63, 53 g/L; CHOL 3.9, 2.8 mmol/L; and BUN 9.3, 3.6 mmol/L. The BUN was found to have  to have too low an S-value to make a contribution to the compressed classification. The cutoff values for classifying the data were assigned prior to statistical analysis, after examining information in the structured data. The data was obtained by a natural experiment in which the test profiles routinely done by the laboratory were randomly extracted. The analysis identifies the values used that best classify the data and are not dependent on distributional assumptions. The data were converted to 0, 1, or 2 as outcomes, to create a ternary truth table (eaxch row in nnn, the n value is 0 to 2). This allows for 3(81) possible patterns, without the inclusion of prealbumin (TTR). The emerging system has much fewer patterns in the information-rich truth table formed (a purposeful, far from random event). We added TTR, coded, and examined the data from 129 patients. The classes are a compressed truth table of n-coded patterns with outcomes of 0, 1, or 2 with protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) increasing from an all-0 to all-2 pattern.  Pattern class (F=154), PAB (F=35), ALB (F=56), and CHOL (F=18) were different across PEM class and predicted PEM class (R-sq. = 0.7864, F=119, p < E-5). Kruskall-Wallis analysis of class by ranks was significant for pattern class E-18), TTR (6.1E-15) ALB (E-16), CHOL (9E-10), and TPR (5E-13). The medians and standard error (SEM) for TTR, ALB, and CHOL of four TTR classes (NM, mild, mod, severe) are: TTR = 209, 8.7; 159, 9.3; 137, 10.4; 72, 11.1 mg/L. ALB – 36, 0.7; 30.5, 0.8; 25.0, 0.8; 24.5, 0.8 g/L. CHOL = 4.43, 0.17; 4.04, 0.20; 3.11, 0.21; 2.54, 0.22 mmol/L. TTR and CHOL values show the effect of nutrition support on TTR and CHOL in PEM. Moderately malnourished patients receiving nutrition support have TTR values in the normal range at 137 mg/L and at 159 mg/L when the ALB is at 25 g/L or at 30.5 g/L.

An Informational Approach to Likelihood of Malnutrition 

Larry Bernstein, Thomas Shaw-Stiffel, Lisa Zarney, Walter Pleban.
Nutrition Nov 1996;12(11):772-776.  PII: S0899-9007(96)00222-5.

Unidentified protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) is associated with comorbidities and increased hospital length of stay. We developed a model for identifying severe metabolic stress and likelihood of malnutrition using test patterns of albumin (ALB), cholesterol (CHOL), and total protein (TP) in 545 chemistry profiles…They were compressed to four pattern classes. ALB (F=170), CHOL (F = 21), and TP (F = 5.6) predicted PEM class (R-SQ = 0.806, F= 214; p < E^-6), but pattern class was the best predictor (R-SQ = 0.900, F= 1200, p< E^-10). Ktuskal-Wallis analysis of class by ranks was significant for pattern class (E^18), ALB (E^-18), CHOL (E^-14), TP (@E^-16). The means and SEM for tests in the three PEM classes (mild, mod, severe) were; ALB – 35.7, 0.8; 30.9, 0.5; 24.2, 0.5 g/L. CHOL – 3.93, 0.26; 3.98, 0.16; 3.03, 0.18 µmol/L, and TP – 68.8, 1.7; 60.0, 1.0; 50.6, 1.1 g/L. We classified patients at risk of malnutrition using truth table comprehension.

Downsizing of Lean Body Mass is a Key Determinant of Alzheimer’s Disease

Yves Ingenbleek, Larry Bernstein
J Alzheimer’s Dis 2015; 44: 745-754.

Lean body mass (LBM) encompasses all metabolically active organs distributed into visceral and structural tissue compartments and collecting the bulk of N and K stores of the human body. Transthyretin (TTR)  is a plasma protein mainly secreted by the liver within a trimolecular TTR-RBP-retinol complex revealing from birth to old age strikingly similar evolutionary patterns with LBM in health and disease. TTR is also synthesized by the choroid plexus along distinct regulatory pathways. Chronic dietary methionine (Met) deprivation or cytokine-induced inflammatory disorders generates LBM downsizing following differentiated physiopathological processes. Met-restricted regimens downregulate the transsulfuration cascade causing upstream elevation of homocysteine (Hcy) safeguarding Met homeostasis and downstream drop of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) impairing anti-oxidative capacities. Elderly persons constitute a vulnerable population group exposed to increasing Hcy burden and declining H2S protection, notably in plant-eating communities or in the course of inflammatory illnesses. Appropriate correction of defective protein status and eradication of inflammatory processes may restore an appropriate LBM size allowing the hepatic production of the retinol circulating complex to resume, in contrast with the refractory choroidal TTR secretory process. As a result of improved health status, augmented concentrations of plasma-derived TTR and retinol may reach the cerebrospinal fluid and dismantle senile amyloid plaques, contributing to the prevention or the delay of the onset of neurodegenerative events in elderly subjects at risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Amyloidogenic and non-amyloidogenic transthyretin variants interact differently with human cardiomyocytes: insights into early events of non-fibrillar tissue damage

Pallavi Manral and Natalia Reixach

TTR (transthyretin) amyloidosis are diseases characterized by the aggregation and extracellular deposition of the normally soluble plasma protein TTR. Ex vivo and tissue culture studies suggest that tissue damage precedes TTR fibril deposition, indicating that early events in the amyloidogenic cascade have an impact on disease development. We used a human cardiomyocyte tissue culture model system to define these events. We previously described that the amyloidogenic V122I TTR variant is cytotoxic to human cardiac cells, whereas the naturally occurring, stable and non-amyloidogenic T119M TTR variant is not. We show that most of the V122I TTR interacting with the cells is extracellular and this interaction is mediated by a membraneprotein(s). In contrast, most of the non-amyloidogenic T119M TTR associated with the cells is intracellular where it undergoes lysosomal degradation. The TTR internalization process is highly dependent on membrane cholesterol content. Using a fluorescent labelled V122I TTR variant that has the same aggregation and cytotoxic potential as the native V122I TTR, we determined that its association with human cardiomyocytes is saturable with a KD near 650nM. Only amyloidogenic V122I TTR compete with fluorescent V122I force ll-binding sites. Finally, incubation of the human cardiomyocytes with V122I TTR but not with T119M TTR, generates superoxide species and activates caspase3/7. In summary, our results show that the interaction of the amyloidogenic V122I TTR is distinct from that of a non-amyloidogenic TTR variant and is characterized by its retention at the cell membrane, where it initiates the cytotoxic cascade.

Emerging roles for retinoids in regeneration and differentiation in normal and disease states

Lorraine J. Gudas
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1821 (2012) 213–221

The vitamin (retinol) metabolite, all-transretinoic acid (RA), is a signaling molecule that plays key roles in the development of the body plan and induces the differentiation of many types of cells. In this review the physiological and pathophysiological roles of retinoids (retinol and related metabolites) in mature animals are discussed. Both in the developing embryo and in the adult, RA signaling via combinatorial Hoxgene expression is important for cell positional memory. The genes that require RA for the maturation/differentiation of T cells are only beginning to be cataloged, but it is clear that retinoids play a major role in expression of key genes in the immune system. An exciting, recent publication in regeneration research shows that ALDH1a2(RALDH2), which is the rate-limiting enzyme in the production of RA from retinaldehyde, is highly induced shortly after amputation in the regenerating heart, adult fin, and larval fin in zebrafish. Thus, local generation of RA presumably plays a key role in fin formation during both embryogenesis and in fin regeneration. HIV transgenic mice and human patients with HIV-associated kidney disease exhibit a profound reduction in the level of RARβ protein in the glomeruli, and HIV transgenic mice show reduced retinol dehydrogenase levels, concomitant with a greater than 3-fold reduction in endogenous RA levels in the glomeruli. Levels of endogenous retinoids (those synthesized from retinol within cells) are altered in many different diseases in the lung, kidney, and central nervous system, contributing to pathophysiology.

The Membrane Receptor for Plasma Retinol-Binding Protein, A New Type of Cell-Surface Receptor

Hui Sun and Riki Kawaguchi
Intl Review Cell and Molec Biol, 2011; 288:Chap 1. Pp 1:34

Vitamin A is essential for diverse aspects of life ranging from embryogenesis to the proper functioning of most adul torgans. Its derivatives (retinoids) have potent biological activities such as regulating cell growth and differentiation. Plasma retinol-binding protein (RBP) is the specific vitamin A carrier protein in the blood that binds to vitamin A with high affinity and delivers it to target organs. A large amount of evidence has accumulated over the past decades supporting the existence of a cell-surface receptor for RBP that mediates cellular vitamin A uptake. Using an unbiased strategy, this specific cell-surface RBP receptor has been identified as STRA6, a multi-transmembrane domain protein with previously unknown function. STRA6 is not homologous to any protein of known function and represents a new type of cell-surface receptor. Consistent with the diverse functions of vitamin A, STRA6 is widely expressed in embryonic development and in adult organ systems. Mutations in human STRA6 are associated with severe pathological phenotypes in many organs
such as the eye, brain, heart, and lung. STRA6 binds to RBP with high affinity and mediates vitamin A uptake into cells. This review summarizes the history of the RBP receptor research, its expression in the context of known functions of vitamin A in distinct human organs, structure/function analysis of this new type of membrane receptor, pertinent questions regarding its very existence, and its potential implication in treating human diseases.

Choroid plexus dysfunction impairs beta-amyloid clearance in a triple transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease

Ibrahim González-Marrero, Lydia Giménez-Llort, Conrad E. Johanson, et al.
Front Cell Neurosc  Feb2015; 9(17): 1-10

Compromised secretory function of choroid plexus (CP) and defective cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) production, along with accumulation of beta-amyloid (Aβ) peptides at the blood-CSF barrier (BCSFB), contribute to complications of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The AD triple transgenic mouse model (3xTg-AD) at 16 month-old mimics critical hallmarks of the human disease: β-amyloid (Aβ) plaques and neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) with a temporal-and regional-specific profile. Currently, little is known about transport and metabolic responses by CP to the disrupted homeostasis of CNS Aβ in AD. This study analyzed the effects of highly-expressed AD-linked human transgenes (APP, PS1 and tau) on lateral ventricle CP function. Confocal imaging and immunohistochemistry revealed an increase only of Aβ42 isoform in epithelial cytosol and in stroma surrounding choroidal capillaries; this buildup may reflect insufficient clearance transport from CSF to blood. Still, there was increased expression, presumably compensatory, of the choroidal Aβ transporters: the low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein1 (LRP1) and the receptor for advanced glycation end product (RAGE). A thickening of the epithelial basal membrane and greater collagen-IV deposition occurred around capillaries in CP, probably curtailing solute exchanges. Moreover, there was attenuated expression of epithelial aquaporin-1 and transthyretin(TTR) protein compared to Non-Tg mice. Collectively these findings indicate CP dysfunction hypothetically linked to increasing Aβ burden resulting in less efficient ion transport, concurrently with reduced production of CSF (less sink action on brain Aβ) and diminished secretion of TTR (less neuroprotection against cortical Aβ toxicity). The putative effects of a disabled CP-CSF system on CNS functions are discussed in the context of AD.

Endoplasmic reticulum: The unfolded protein response is tangled In neurodegeneration

Jeroen J.M. Hoozemans, Wiep Scheper
Intl J Biochem & Cell Biology 44 (2012) 1295–1298

Organelle facts•The ER is involved in the folding and maturation ofmembrane-bound and secreted proteins.•The ER exerts protein quality control to ensure correct folding and to detect and remove misfolded proteins.•Disturbance of ER homeostasis leads to protein misfolding and induces the UPR.•Activation of the UPR is aimed to restore proteostasis via an intricate transcriptional and (post)translational signaling network.•In neurodegenerative diseases classified as tauopathies the activation of the UPR coincides with the pathogenic accumulation of the microtubule associated protein tau.•The involvement of the UPR in tauopathies makes it a potential therapeutic target.

The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is involved in the folding and maturation of membrane-bound and secreted proteins. Disturbed homeostasis in the ER can lead to accumulation of misfolded proteins, which trigger a stress response called the unfolded protein response (UPR). In neurodegenerative diseases that are classified as tauopathies, activation of the UPR coincides with the pathogenic accumulation of the microtubule associated protein tau. Several lines of evidence indicate that UPR activation contributes to increased levels of phosphorylated tau, a prerequisite for the formation of tau aggregates. Increased understanding of the crosstalk between signaling pathways involved in protein quality control in the ERand tau phosphorylation will support the development of new therapeutic targets that promote neuronal survival.

Chemical and/or biological therapeutic strategies to ameliorate protein misfolding diseases

Derrick Sek Tong Ong and Jeffery W Kelly
Current Opin Cell Biol 2011; 23:231–238

Inheriting a mutant misfolding-prone protein that cannot be efficiently folded in a given cell type(s) results in a spectrum of human loss-of-function misfolding diseases. The inability of the biological protein maturation pathways to adapt to a specific misfolding-prone protein also contributes to pathology. Chemical and biological therapeutic strategies are presented that restore protein homeostasis, or proteostasis, either by enhancing the biological capacity of the proteostasis network or through small molecule stabilization of a specific misfolding-prone protein. Herein, we review the recent literature on therapeutic strategies to ameliorate protein misfolding diseases that function through either of these mechanisms, or a combination thereof, and provide our perspective on the promise of alleviating protein misfolding diseases by taking advantage of proteostasis adaptation.


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Reporter and curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP that prevent transthyretin-mediated cardiomyocyte amyloidotic toxicity

Transthyretin is a small protein with a half-life of < 48 hours, synthesized by the liver, and a major transport protein for thyroxin.  There are 80 variants known, and some variants that occur in the Portuguese, a small section of Japan, Sweden, and Brazil, are associated will primary amyloidosis, the only cure for which is liver transplantation.  It causes fibrillary inclusions in the heart, but also affects the autonomic nervous system.  Some of the major work on this has been done for many years in the laboratory of   Jeffery W. Kelly, at the Skaggs Institue for Chemical Biology, the Scripps Research Institute.  A recent publication is of considerable interest.

Potent Kinetic Stabilizers that Prevent Transthyretin-mediated Cardiomyocyte Proteotoxicity

 Mamoun M. Alhamadsheh1,6,7, Stephen Connelly2,7, Ahryon Cho1, Natàlia Reixach3, Evan T. Powers3,4,5, Dorothy W. Pan1, Ian A. Wilson2,5, Jeffery W. Kelly3,4,5, and Isabella A. Graef1,*
Sci Transl Med. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2012 August 24.
1Department of Pathology, Stanford University Medical School, Stanford, California, USA
2Department of Molecular Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, USA
3Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, USA
4Department of Chemistry, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, USA
5The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, USA
6Department of Pharmaceutics & Medicinal Chemistry, University of the Pacific, Stockton, California, USA


The V122I mutation that alters the stability of transthyretin (TTR) affects 3–4% of African Americans and leads to amyloidogenesis and development of cardiomyopathy. In addition, 10–15% of individuals over the age of 65 develop senile systemic amyloidosis (SSA) and cardiac
TTR deposits due to wild-type TTR amyloidogenesis. As no approved therapies for TTR amyloid cardiomyopathy are available, the development of drugs that prevent amyloid-mediated cardiotoxicity is desired. To this aim, we developed a fluorescence polarization-based HTS screen,
which identified several new chemical scaffolds targeting TTR. These novel compounds were potent kinetic stabilizers of TTR and
  • prevented tetramer dissociation,
  • unfolding and aggregation of both wild type and the most common cardiomyopathy-associated TTR mutant, V122I-TTR.
High-resolution co-crystal structures and characterization of the binding energetics revealed how these diverse structures bound to tetrameric TTR. Our study also showed that these compounds effectively inhibited the proteotoxicity of V122I-TTR towards human cardiomyocytes.
Several of these ligands stabilized TTR in human serum more effectively than diflunisal, which is one of the best known inhibitors of TTR aggregation, and may be promising leads for the treatment and/or prevention of TTR-mediated cardiomyopathy.

Author Contributions:

M.M.A. designed and performed most experiments, S.C. performed crystallographic structure determination, A.C peformed the serum TTR stabilization. N.R. performed the cell-based assays.   E.T.P. analyzed the ITC data. D.W.P. helped with probe synthesis. I.A.W. supervised the crystallographic work. J.W.K. supervised the work, S.C., N.R., I.A.W. and J.W.K. edited the paper. I.A.G supervised the work, M.M.A. and I.A.G prepared the manuscript.


The misassembly of soluble proteins into toxic amyloid aggregates underlies a large number of human degenerative diseases (1–3). TTR is one of more than 30 human amyloidogenic proteins whose misassembly can cause
  • a variety of degenerative gain-of-toxic-function diseases.
TTR is a tetrameric protein (54 kDa), secreted from the liver into the blood where, using orthogonal sites,
  • it transports thyroxine (T4) and
  • holo-retinol binding protein (4).
However, 99% of the TTR T4 binding sites remain unoccupied in humans
  • owing to the presence of two other T4 transport proteins in blood (3).
Familial TTR amyloid diseases, which are associated with one of more than 80 mutations in the TTR gene, include
  • the systemic neuropathies (familial amyloid polyneuropathy [FAP]),
  • cardiomyopathies (familial amyloid cardiomyopathy [FAC]), and
  • central nervous system amyloidoses (CNSA) (5–8).
Cardiac amyloidosis is most commonly caused by
  • deposition of immunoglobulin light chains or
  • TTR in the cardiac interstitium and conducting system.
It is a chronic and progressive condition, which can lead to arrhythmias, biventricular heart failure, and death (8–10). Two types of TTR-associated amyloid cardiomyopathies are clinically important.
  1. Wild-type (WT) TTR aggregation underlies the development of senile systemic amyloidosis (SSA). Cardiac TTR deposits can be found in 10 to 15% of the population over the age of 65 at autopsy (10,11). Many of these patients are asymptomatic, but there is little doubt that SSA is an underdiagnosed disease.
  2. In addition, a number of TTR mutations, including V122I, lead to amyloidogenesis and familial amyloid cardiomyopathy (FAC) (12–15). Population studies show that the V122I mutation is found in 3–4% of African Americans (~1.3 million people) and contributes to the increased prevalence of heart failure among this population segment (14,15).

The mutant TTR allele behaves as an autosomal dominant allele with age-dependent penetrance and

  • the frequency of cardiac amyloidosis from TTR in African-American individuals above age 60 is four times that seen in Caucasian-Americans of comparable age.
All of the TTR mutations associated with familial amyloidosis decrease tetramer stability, and
  • some decrease the kinetic barrier for tetramer dissociation (3, 16).
  • The latter is important because tetramer dissociation is the rate-limiting step in the TTR amyloidogenesis cascade (3).

Kinetic stabilization of the native, tetrameric structure of TTR by

  • interallelic trans suppression (incorporation of mutant subunits that raise the dissociative transition state energy) prevents
    1. post-secretory dissociation and aggregation, as well as the related disease 
    2. familial amyloid polyneuropathy (FAP), by slowing TTR tetramer dissociation (17).
Occupancy of the TTR T4 binding sites with rationally designed small molecules is known to stabilize the native tetrameric state of TTR over the dissociative transition state,
  • raising the kinetic barrier,
  • imposing kinetic stabilization on the tetramer and
  • preventing amyloidogenesis (3, 16, 18).
Previous studies have focused on rational ligand design and as a result
  • most of the TTR stabilizers reported to date are halogenated biaryl analogues of T4,
  • many resembling non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Some of these compounds, such as the NSAID diflunisal, which is currently tested in clinical trials in FAP patients for its efficacy to ameliorate
  • peripheral neuropathy resulting from TTR deposition, (19) have anti-inflammatory activity (20, 21).
The pharmacological effects of NSAIDs are due to inhibition of cyclo-oxygenase (COX) enzymes (22). Inhibition of COX-1 can produce side effects such as
  • gastrointestinal irritation, leading to ulcers and bleeding (23).
Inhibition of COX-2 has been associated with an
  • increased risk of severe cardiovascular events, including heart failure,
  • particularly in patients with preexisting cardiorenal dysfunction (20, 21, 24, 25).
Therefore, heart and kidney impairment are exclusion criteria for participation of patients in the diflunisal clinical trials to treat TTR-mediated FAP (19). Genomic variations can
  • increase the sensitivity of individuals to adverse side effects of NSAIDs.
Serum concentrations of NSAIDs depend on CYP2C9 and/or CYP2C8 activity. CYP2C9 polymorphism might play a significant role in the profile of adverse side effects of NSAID and alleles that affect the activity of CYP2C9 are found at different frequency in subjects of Caucasian, African or Asian descent (26, 27). Hence, the long-term therapy with drugs that have inhibitory effect on COX activity to prevent TTR aggregation is especially problematic in patients who suffer from TTR-mediated cardiomyopathy. The design and development of drugs to treat/prevent FAC or SSA thus presents the challenge
  1. not only to find compounds with a greater variety of chemical scaffolds that accomplish stabilization, but
  2. do so without the adverse side effects due to inhibition of COX activity.
 For these reasons, the development of a rapid and robust screen for compounds that bind to and stabilize TTR could be useful. To date, no high-throughput screening (HTS) methodology is available for the discovery of TTR ligands (28,29). Therefore, we developed a versatile
  • fluorescence polarization (FP) based HTS assay that can detect
  • binding of small molecules to the T4 binding pocket of TTR under physiological conditions.


Design and synthesis of the TTR FP probe

FP is used to study molecular interactions by monitoring changes in the apparent size of a fluorescently labeled molecule. Binding is measured by an increase in the FP signal, which is proportional to the decrease in the rate of tumbling of a fluorescent ligand upon association with macromolecules such as proteins (Fig. 1A). To synthesize a fluorescent TTR ligand 1, we initially started with the NSAID diflunisal analogue 2 (Fig. 1B) (30). The product of attaching a linker to 2, compound 3, had very low binding affinity to TTR (Kd1 >3290 nM, fig. S1A and fig. S1B).
The crystal structure of the diclofenac analog 4 showed that
  • the phenolic hydroxyl flanked by the two chlorine atoms is oriented out of the binding pocket into the solvent (31).
  • We reasoned that attaching a PEG amine linker to the phenol group of 4 would generate compound 5 which would bind to TTR (Fig. 1B and fig. S1C)

5 was coupled to fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC) to produce the FITC-coupled TTR FP probe (1, Fig. 1B). The binding characteristics of the probe (Kd1 = 13 nM and Kd2 = 100 nM) were assessed with ITC (Fig. 2A).

Evaluation of the FP assay

The binding of 1 to TTR was evaluated to test its suitability for the FP assay with a standard saturation binding experiment. A fixed concentration of probe 1 (0.1 μM) was incubated with increasing concentrations of TTR (0.005 μM to 10 μM) and the formation of 1•TTR complex was quantified by the increase in FP signal (excitation λ 485 nm, emission λ 525 nm) relative to the concentration of TTR (Fig. 2B). The fluorescence polarization increased with the concentration of TTR until saturation was reached. A large dynamic range (70 – 330 mP) was measured for the assay. To validate the FP assay, we tested known TTR binders in a displacement assay (for detailed information see Supplemental Material). Compound 2 (Kapp = 231 nM, R2 = 0.997), Thyroxine (T4) (Kapp = 186 nM, R2 = 0.998) and diclofenac (Kapp = 4660 nM, R2 = 0.999) decreased the FP signal in a dose- dependent  manner  (Fig. 2C,  fig. S2B and S2C). The FP assay is a competitive displacement assay and therefore it provides apparent binding constants (Kapp). However, these apparent binding constants correlate well with the data obtained by ITC which measures direct interactions in solution and gives an actual (Kd) value.

  Adaptation of the FP assay for HTS

Next, we optimized the FP assay for HTS and screened a ~130,000 small molecule library for compounds that displaced probe 1 from the T4 binding sites of TTR. The FP assay was performed in 384-well plates with low concentrations of probe 1 (1.5 nM) and TTR (50 nM) in a 10  μL assay volume.  Detergent (0.01% Triton X-100) was added to the assay buffer to avoid false positive hits from aggregation of the small molecules. The assay demonstrated robust performance, with a, large dynamic range (~70–230 mP) and a Z′ factor (32, 33) in the range of 0.57–0.78 (fig. S3A and S3B).

Hits were defined as compounds, which resulted in at least 50% decrease in FP and demonstrated relative fluorescence between 70 and 130%. Many fluorescence quenchers and enhancers, which have less than 70% and greater than 130% total fluorescence relative to a control (compound without TTR), were excluded from the hit list. The excluded compounds have native fluorescence that is similar to fluorescein, which would interfere with the FP measurements and result in false positive hits. Two hundred compounds were designated as positive hits (0.167% hit rate). The top 33 compounds (compounds with lowest FP IC50) were assayed in a 10-point duplicate dose-response FP assay and displayed an IC50 (concentration that resulted in 50% decrease in the FP signal) between 0.277 and 10.957 μM (table S2).

Validation of the HTS hits

The top 33 compounds were retested with the FP assay (table S2) and with surface plasmon resonance (SPR) as another independent biophysical method. Solutions of the 33 hits were passed over immobilized, biotinylated TTR on a streptavidin coated chip. The binding of a small molecule to TTR on the sensor chip produces a SPR response signal (RU). The RU signal after addition of the top 33 compounds was measured and compared to a negative, solvent only, control. All compounds identified by the screen as hits were confirmed as TTR binders using SPR (fig. S4). We also found known TTR binders, such as NSAIDs (diclofenac, meclofenamic acid, and niflumic acid) and isoflavones (apigenin) in our screen (3, 34) (table S2). Among the best ligands (Fig. 2D) were the NSAID, niflumic acid, two catechol-O-methyl-tranferase (COMT) inhibitors, 3,5-dintrocatechol and Ro 41-0960 (35) and a number  of compounds   not previously known to bind to TTR. The chemical structures of these ligands were confirmed by 1H NMR and high-resolution mass spectrometry(HRMS) and the chemical purity was determined to be >95% (fig. S5).

Inhibition of TTR amyloidogenesis by the HTS hits

To test whether the new TTR ligands (7.2 μM) could function as kinetic stabilizers, we measured their ability to inhibit TTR (3.6 μM) amyloidogenesis at 72 hrs at pH 4.4 (fig. S6) (29). All 33 compounds inhibited TTR aggregation (<50% fibril formation, table S2). Of these, 23 were very good (<20% fibril formation) and 11 were excellent (<2% fibril formation) TTR kinetic stabilizers (Fig. 3A). All of the potent TTR stabilizers, except niflumic acid, and the two COMT inhibitors 3,5-dintrocatechol and Ro 41-0960, were chemical entities with no previously reported biological activity. Since occupancy of only
one T4 binding site within TTR is sufficient for kinetic stabilization of the tetramer (3), we tested the most potent ligands at substoichiometric concentrations (2.4 fold molar excess of TTR relative to ligand) in a kinetic aggregation assay monitored over 5 days (Fig. 3B). Under these conditions ligands 7, 14, 15 and Ro 41-0960 dramatically slowed fibril formation and outperformed the known TTR stabilizer, diclofenac, which blocked only ~55% of TTR aggregation.

Evaluating the TTR ligands for COX-1 enzymatic inhibition and binding to thyroid hormone receptor

A successful clinical candidate against TTR amyloid cardiomyopathy should have minimal off-target toxicity due to the potential need for life-long use of these drugs. Specifically, the TTR ligands should exhibit minimal binding to COX and the nuclear thyroid hormone receptor (THR). Inhibition of COX is contraindicated for treating FAC patients, since COX inhibition can not only lead to renal dysfunction and blood pressure elevation, but may precipitate heart failure in vulnerable individuals (20, 21, 24, 25). Therefore, the most potent TTR ligands were evaluated for their ability to inhibit COX-1 activity, as well as, for binding to THR, in comparison with the NSAID niflumic acid. Although niflumic acid exhibited substantial (94%) COX-1 inhibition, three of the 12 new compounds evaluated (7, 6 and 10) displayed less than 1% inhibition of COX-1. Only one ligand (compound 8) showed significant (58%) and two compounds (6 and 10) minor (5%) binding to THR (Fig. 3C).

Characterization of the binding energetics to TTR

Many reported TTR ligands, including T4, bind TTR with negative cooperativity, which appears to arise from subtle conformational changes in TTR upon ligand binding to the first T4 site (3, 16, 36). We used ITC to determine the binding constants and to evaluate cooperativity between the two TTR T4 sites (Fig. 2A, Fig. 4A, Fig. 4B and fig. S1 and fig. S7). The ITC data for compounds 1, 7, 14, and Ro 41-0906 binding to TTR were fit to a two-site binding model and show that these potent ligands bind TTR with low nanomolar affinity. The dissociation constants for these ligands indicated that they bound TTR with negative cooperativity (table S3). Analysis of the free energies associated with ligand binding to TTR indicates that binding was driven both by burial of the hydrophobic ligand in the TTR binding site (which leads to the favorable binding entropies) and specific ligand-TTR interactions (which leads to the favorable binding enthalpies) (Fig. 2A, Fig. 4A, Fig.4B, and fig. S7B) (37). The binding of compounds 7 (Kd1 = 58 nM and Kd2 = 500 nM) and 14 (Kd1 = 26 nM and Kd2 = 1800 nM) to TTR did not cause major conformational changes to the TTR tetramer structure (Fig. 5).
Remainder of document is found at publication site, including Figures.

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Amyloidosis with Cardiomyopathy

Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
Amyloidosis describes the various clinical syndromes that occur as a result of damage by amyloid deposits in tissues and organs throughout the body.  Systemic amyloidosis is a relatively rare multisystem disease caused by the deposition of misfolded protein in various tissues and organs. The term amyloid describes the deposition in the extracellular space of certain proteins in a highly characteristic, insoluble fibrillar form.  The disease entity is a disorder of misfolded or misassembled proteins.  There is extracellular amyloid fiber laid down as cross β-sheets disrupting organ function, which may affect the pancreas, kidney, autonomic nervous system, the heart, and in one form causes carpal tunnel syndrome.
It may present to almost any specialty, and diagnosis is frequently delayed. Cardiac involvement is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality, especially in primary light chain (AL) amyloidosis and in both wild-type and hereditary transthyretin amyloidosis. The heart is also occasionally involved in acquired serum amyloid A type (AA) amyloidosis and other rare hereditary types. Clinical phenotype varies greatly between different types of amyloidosis, and even the cardiac presentation has a great spectrum. The incidence of amyloidosis is uncertain, but it is thought that the most frequently diagnosed AL amyloidosis has an annual incidence of 6 to 10 cases per million population in the United Kingdom and United States.
The molecular basis for this particular phenomenon came with the extensive work done on multiple myeloma, antibody structure, and light chains.  In 1950, the discovery of a familial amyloid polyneuropathy was described in Portugal, and there were similar diseases in Sweden and Japan.  There were 72 known variants of transthyretin (TTR) in 1995, and now there are 100.  In addition, the occurance of different TTR associated variants with and without (amyloid) is found is Brazil, UK, US, Israel, Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, and Africa.  The table of variants, organ damage, and geographic location is too large to place on this document. If we refer to amyloid cardiomyopathy, it is exclusively a primary amyloidopathy, not secondary to light chain disorders or an inflammatory disease.  If we consider amyloidosis, we also have to consider family history, organ dysfunction, and we have to make a distinction between primary cardiac involvement, autonomic nervous system instability, and the two coexisting.  Familial amyloid polyneuropathy (FAP) is an extremely debilitating and progressive disease that is only treatable by liver transplantation.  Primary amyloid cardiomyopathy has been treated by heart transplant.  The qualifying statement here is, it depends.

Primary and Secondary Amyloidoses

Amyloid was originally described by pathologists based on microscopy. Amyloidoses are a systemic primary or secondary disease. There are distinctions to be made based on location and type.  The clinical significance of amyloid disease varies enormously, ranging from incidental asymptomatic deposits to localized disease through to rapidly fatal systemic forms that can affect multiple vital organs.
Common causes of secondary amyloidosis are – light chain production (AL) as in plasma cell dyscrasia, amyloid A (AA), senile systemic amyloidosis (diagnosed rarely in life).  The systemic amyloidoses are designated by a capital A (for amyloid) followed by the abbreviation for the chemical identity of the fibril protein. Thus, TTR amyloidosis is abbreviated ATTR, and immunoglobulin light chain type amyloidosis is abbreviated AL. Both normal-sequence TTR and variant-sequence TTR form amyloidosis. Normal-sequence TTR forms cardiac amyloidosis in elderly people, termed senile cardiac amyloidosis (SCA). When it was recognized that SCA is often accompanied by microscopic deposits in many other organs, the alternative name senile systemic amyloidosis (SSA) was proposed. Both terms are now used.
Currently available therapy is focused on reducing the supply of the respective amyloid fibril precursor protein and supportive medical care, which together have greatly improved survival. Chemotherapy and anti-inflammatory treatment for the disorders that underlie AL and AA amyloidosis are guided by serial measurements of the respective circulating amyloid precursor proteins, i.e. serial serum free light chains in AL and serum amyloid A protein in AA type.
Quality of life and prognosis of some forms of hereditary systemic amyloidosis can be improved by liver and other organ transplants. Various new therapies, ranging from silencing RNA, protein stabilizers to monoclonal antibodies, aimed at inhibiting fibril precursor supply, fibril formation or the persistence of amyloid deposits, are in development; some are already in clinical phase.
Ann Clin Biochem May 2012; 49(3 ): 229-241   http://acb.2011.011225v1 49/3/229

What is transthyretin (TTR)?

TTR is a  tetramer of 4 127 amino acid subunits synthesized by the liver that circulates as a transporter of thyroxin, and with retinol-binding protein, transports vitamin A.  It was originally defined by the migration in electrophoresis more anodal to albumin, hence, prealbumin.  It is present in cerebrospinal fluid, secreted by the choroid plexus.  The TTR monomer contains 8 antiparallel beta pleated sheet domains. TTR can be found in plasma and in cerebrospinal fluid and is synthesized by the choroid plexus of the brain and, to a lesser degree, by the retina. Its gene is located on the long arm of chromosome 18 and contains 4 exons and 3 introns.
The concentration in serum can be expected to be above 20 mg/dL in a health adult, but the protein decreases by 1 mg/dL/day postoperatively, and it decreases with acute or chronic renal failure, pneumonia or sepsis, rising again with the onset of anabolism.  Patients in the pulmonary intensive care unit have TTR levels that remain low for 7-10 days, but followup data for the remainder of the hospital stay or in relationship to readmission in the six months after release from hospital care was not part of the study.
A decrease in TTR is associated with the systemic inflammatory response, whereby, the liver reprioritizes the synthesis of proteins with an increase in acute phase reactants (APRs), namely, C-reactive protein (CRP) and a-1 acid glycoprotein, and decreased albumin and TTR.  The inflammatory condition maintains a euthyroid status with decreased TTR because of the availability of free thyroxine in equilibrium with the lower binding protein.  This has been referred to sick euthyroid status. The role in thyroxine transport is not insignificant, as chronic protein malnutrition is associated with hypothyroidism, as originally described by Prof. Yves Ingenbleek, Univ. Louis Pateur, Starsbourg, Fr. in Senegalese children with Kwashiorkor.  However, the importance of TTR as a unique biomarker is not to be downgraded because of what is often refered to as “an inverted APR”.
Transthyretin was discovered to be a good reflection of the “lean body mass”, by Vernon Young, MIT, and Ingenbleek, as a result of 3 decades of study. The ratio of S:N being 1:20 in plant proteins and 1:12.5 in animal sources, is closely related to methylation reactions and sustained deficiency of S intake results in elevated homocysteine level.

What is FAP?

Familial amyloid polyneuropathy (FAP), also called transthyretin-related hereditary amyloidosis, transthyretin amyloidosis or Corino de Andrade’s disease, is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disease. It is a form of amyloidosis, and was first identified and described by Portuguese neurologist Mário Corino da Costa Andrade, in the 1950s.FAP is distinct from senile systemic amyloidosis (SAS), which is not inherited, and which was determined to be the primary cause of death for 70% of supercentenarians who have been autopsied.
Familial amyloid polyneuropathy (FAP) is an extremely debilitating and progressive disease that is only treatable by liver transplantation.  Primary amyloid cardiomyopathy has been treated by heart transplant.  The qualifying statement here is, it depends.  Those patients with TTR-amyloidopathy have a specific gene substitution in the TTR gene. Consequently, there is circulation TTR, but it is not effectively involved in thyroxine transport.


Usually manifesting itself between 20 and 40 years of age, it is characterized by pain, paresthesia, muscular weakness and autonomic dysfunction. In its terminal state, the kidneys and the heart are affected. FAP is characterized by the systemic deposition of amyloidogenic variants of the transthyretin protein, especially in the peripheral nervous system, causing a progressive sensory and motor polyneuropathy. The age at symptom onset, pattern of organ involvement, and disease course vary, but most mutations are associated with cardiac and/or nerve involvement. The gastrointestinal tract, vitreous, lungs, and carpal ligament are also frequently affected. When the peripheral nerves are prominently affected, the disease is termed familial amyloidotic polyneuropathy (FAP). When the heart is involved heavily but the nerves are not, the disease is called familial amyloid cardiomyopathy (FAC). Regardless of which organ is primarily targeted, the general term is simply amyloidosis-transthyretin type, abbreviated ATTR.


  1. TTR mutations accelerate the process of TTR amyloid formation and are the most important risk factor for the development of clinically significant ATTR. More than 85 amyloidogenic TTR variants cause systemic familial amyloidosis. The variant TTR is mostly produced by the liver. Amyloidogenic TTR mutations destabilize TTR monomers or tetramers, allowing the molecule to more easily attain an amyloidogenic intermediate conformation. The tetramer has to dissociate into misfolded monomers to aggregate into a variety of structures including amyloid fibrils. Because most patients are heterozygotes, they deposit both mutant and wild type TTR subnits.
  2. Familial amyloid polyneuropathy has an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance. FAP is caused by a mutation of the TTR gene, located on human chromosome 18q12.1-11.2. A replacement of valine by methionine at position 30 (TTR V30M) is the mutation most commonly found in FAP.
  3. The disease in the TTR V30M kindreds was termed FAP because early symptoms arose from peripheral neuropathy, but these patients actually have systemic amyloidosis, with widespread deposits often involving the heart, gastrointestinal tract, eye, and other organs.
  4. TTR V122I: This variant, carried by 3.9% of African Americans and over 5% of the population in some areas of West Africa, increases the risk of late-onset (after age 60 years) cardiac amyloidosis. It appears to be the most common amyloid-associated TTR variant worldwide. Affected patients usually do not have peripheral neuropathy.
  5. TTR T60A: This variant causes late-onset systemic amyloidosis with cardiac, and sometimes neuropathic, involvement. This variant originated in northwest Ireland and is found in Irish and Irish American patients.
  6. TTR L58H: Typically affecting the carpal ligament and nerves of the upper extremities, this variant originated in Germany. It has spread throughout the United States but is most common in the mid-Atlantic region.
  7. TTR G6S: This is the most common TTR variant, but it appears to be a neutral polymorphism not associated with amyloidosis. It is carried by about 10% of people of white European descent.

Cardiac transthyretin (TTR) amyloidosis

Cardiac amyloidosis of transthyretin fibril protein (ATTR) type is an infiltrative cardiomyopathy characterised by ventricular wall thickening and diastolic heart failure. More than 27 different precursor proteins have the propensity to form amyloid fibrils. The particular precursor protein that misfolds to form amyloid fibrils defines the amyloid type and predicts the patient’s clinical course. Several types of amyloid can infiltrate the heart, resulting in progressive diastolic and systolic dysfunction, congestive heart failure, and death.  Increased access to cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging has led to a marked increase in referrals to St George’s University of London, London (Dr. Jason Dungu) of Caucasian patients with wild-type ATTR (senile systemic) amyloidosis and Afro-Caribbean patients with the hereditary ATTR V122I type. Both subtypes present predominantly as isolated cardiomyopathy. The differential diagnosis includes cardiac amyloid light-chain (AL) amyloidosis, which has a poorer prognosis and can be amenable to chemotherapy.

Clinical Presentation

Cardiac amyloidosis, irrespective of type, presents as a restrictive cardiomyopathy characterized by progressive diastolic and subsequently systolic biventricular dysfunction and arrhythmia.1 Key “red flags” to possible systemic amyloidosis include nephrotic syndrome, autonomic neuropathy (eg, postural hypotension, diarrhea), soft-tissue infiltrations (eg, macroglossia, carpal tunnel syndrome, respiratory disease), bleeding (eg, cutaneous, such as periorbital, gastrointestinal), malnutrition/cachexia and genetic predisposition (eg, family history, ethnicity). Initial presentations may be cardiac, with progressive exercise intolerance and heart failure. Other organ involvement, particularly in AL amyloidosis, may cloud the cardiac presentation (eg, nephrotic syndrome, autonomic neuropathy, pulmonary or bronchial involvement). Pulmonary edema is not common early in the disease process, but pleural and pericardial effusions and atrial arrhythmias are often seen. Syncope is common and a poor prognostic sign. It is typically exertional or postprandial as part of restrictive cardiomyopathy, sensitivity to intravascular fluid depletion from loop diuretics combined with autonomic neuropathy, or conduction tissue involvement (atrioventricular or sinoatrial nodes) or ventricular arrhythmia. The latter may rarely cause recurrent syncope. Disproportionate septal amyloid accumulation mimicking hypertrophic cardiomyopathy with dynamic left ventricular (LV) outflow tract obstruction is rare but well documented. Myocardial ischemia can result from amyloid deposits within the microvasculature. Atrial thrombus is common, particularly in AL amyloidosis

Diagnosis and Treatment

imaging – Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance in Cardiac Amyloidosis*.

Cardiac amyloidosis can be diagnostically challenging. Cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) can assess abnormal myocardial interstitium. In cardiac amyloidosis, CMR shows a characteristic pattern of global subendocardial late enhancement coupled with abnormal myocardial and blood-pool gadolinium kinetics. The findings agree with the transmural histological distribution of amyloid protein and the cardiac amyloid load.
 *AM Maceira; J Joshi; SK Prasad; J Charles Moon, et al. Royal Brompton Hospital, London;
The diagnosis of amyloidosis requires histological identification of amyloid deposits. Congo Red staining renders amyloid deposits salmon pink by light microscopy, with a characteristic apple green birefringence under polarized light conditions. Additional immunohistochemical staining for precursor proteins identifies the type of amyloidosis.  Ultimately, immunogold electron microscopy and mass spectrometry confer the greatest sensitivity and specificity for amyloid typing.
Treatment of cardiac amyloidosis is dictated by the amyloid type and degree of involvement. Consequently, early recognition and accurate classification are essential.
Novel diagnostic and surveillance approaches using imaging (echocardiography, cardiovascular magnetic resonance), biomarkers (brain natriuretic peptide [BNP], high-sensitivity troponin), new histological typing techniques, and current and future treatments, including approaches directly targeting the amyloid deposits.


Amyloidosis is caused by the extracellular deposition of autologous protein in an abnormal insoluble β-pleated sheet fibrillary conformation—that is, as amyloid fibrils. More than 30 proteins are known to be able to form amyloid fibrils in vivo, which cause disease by progressively damaging the structure and function of affected tissues. Amyloid deposits also contain minor nonfibrillary constituents, including serum amyloid P component (SAP), apolipoprotein E, connective tissue components (glycosaminoglycans, collagen), and basement membrane components (fibronectin, laminin). Amyloid deposits can be massive, and cardiac or other tissues may become substantially replaced. Amyloid fibrils bind Congo red stain, yielding the pathognomonic apple-green birefringence under cross-polarized light microscopy that remains the gold standard for identifying amyloid deposits.

AL Amyloidosis

AL amyloidosis is caused by deposition of fibrils composed of monoclonal immunoglobulin light chains and is associated with clonal plasma cell or other B-cell dyscrasias. The spectrum and pattern of organ involvement is very wide, but cardiac involvement occurs in half of cases and is sometimes the only presenting feature. Cardiac AL amyloidosis may be rapidly progressive. Low QRS voltages, particularly in the limb leads, are common. Thickening of the LV wall is typically mild to moderate and is rarely >18 mm even in advanced disease. Cardiac AL amyloid deposition is accompanied by marked elevation of the biomarkers BNP and cardiac troponin, even at an early stage. Involvement of the heart is the commonest cause of death in AL amyloidosis and is a major determinant of prognosis; without cardiac involvement, patients with AL amyloidosis have a median survival of around 4 years, but the prognosis among affected patients with markedly elevated BNP and cardiac troponin (Mayo stage III disease) is on the order of 8 months.

Hereditary Amyloidoses

Mutations in several genes, such as transthyretin, fibrinogen, apolipoprotein A1, and apolipoprotein A2 can be responsible for hereditary amyloidosis, but by far the most common cause is variant ATTR amyloidosis (variant ATTR) caused by mutations in the transthyretin gene causing neuropathy and, often, cardiac involvement.

TTR gene mutation

 The most common is the Val122Ile mutation. In a large autopsy study that included individuals with cardiac amyloidosis, the TTR Val122Ile allele was present in 3.9% of all African Americans and 23% of African Americans with cardiac amyloidosis. Penetrance of the mutation is not truly known and is associated with a late-onset cardiomyopathy that is indistinguishable from senile cardiac amyloidosis.

Pathology, Presentation, and Management of Amyloidoses

More than 100 genetic variants of TTR are associated with amyloidosis. Most present as the clinical syndrome of progressive peripheral and autonomic neuropathy. Unlike wild-type ATTR or variant ATTR Val122Ile, the features of other variant ATTR include vitreous amyloid deposits or, rarely, deposits in other organs. Cardiac involvement in variant ATTR varies by mutations and can be the presenting or indeed the only clinical feature. For example, cardiac involvement is rare in variant ATTR associated with Val30Met (a common variant in Portugal or Sweden), but it is almost universal and develops early in individuals with variant ATTR due to Thr60Ala mutation (a mutation common in Ireland).

Senile Systemic Amyloidosis (Wild-Type ATTR)

Wild-type TTR amyloid deposits are found at autopsy in about 25% of individuals >80 years of age.  The prevalence of wild-type TTR deposits leading to the clinical syndrome of wild-type ATTR cardiac amyloidosis is unknown. Wild-type ATTR is a predominantly cardiac disease, and the only other significant extracardiac feature is a history of carpal tunnel syndrome, often preceding heart failure by 3 to 5 years. Extracardiac involvement is most unusual.
Both wild-type ATTR and ATTR due to Val122Ile are diseases of the >60-year age group and are often misdiagnosed as hypertensive heart disease. Wild-type ATTR has a strong male predominance, and the natural history remains poorly understood, but studies suggest a median survival of about 7 years from presentation. Recent developments in cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR), which have greatly improved detection of cardiac amyloid during life, suggest that wild-type ATTR is more common than previously thought: It accounted for 0.5% of all patients seen at the UK amyloidosis center until 2001 but now accounts for 7% of 1100 cases with amyloidosis seen since the end of 2009. There appears to be an association between wild-type ATTR and history of myocardial infarctions, G/G (Val/Val) exon 24 polymorphism in the alpha2-macroglobulin (alpha2M), and the H2 haplotype of the tau gene36; the association of tau with Alzheimer’s disease raises interesting questions as both are amyloid-associated diseases of aging.
ECG of a patient with cardiac AL amyloidosis showing small QRS voltages (defined as ≤6 mm height), predominantly in the limb leads and pseudoinfarction pattern in the anterior leads.
Echocardiography is characteristic. Typical findings include concentric ventricular thickening with right ventricular involvement, poor biventricular long-axis function with normal/near-normal ejection fraction and valvular thickening (particularly in wild-type or variant ATTR). Diastolic dysfunction is the earliest echocardiographic abnormality and may occur before cardiac symptoms develop. Biatrial dilatation in presence of biventricular, valvular, and interatrial septal thickening 53 is a useful clue to the diagnosis.
Transthoracic echocardiogram with speckle tracking. The red and yellow lines represent longitudinal motion in the basal segments, whereas the purple and green lines represent apical motion. This shows loss of longitudinal ventricular contraction at the base compared to apex.


High-sensitivity troponin is abnormal in >90% of cardiac AL patients, and the combination of BNP/NT-proBNP plus troponin measurements is used to stage and risk-stratify patients with AL amyloidosis at diagnosis. Very interestingly, the concentration of BNP/NT-proBNP in AL amyloidosis may fall dramatically within weeks after chemotherapy that substantially reduces the production of amyloidogenic light chains. The basis for this very rapid phenomenon, which is not mirrored by changes on echocardiography or CMR, remains uncertain, but a substantial fall is associated with improved outcomes.

Cardiac Magnetic Resonance.

CMR provides functional and morphological information on cardiac amyloid in a similar way to echocardiography, though the latter is superior for evaluating and quantifying diastolic abnormalities. An advantage of CMR is in myocardial tissue characterization. Amyloidotic myocardium reveals subtle precontrast abnormalities (T1, T2), but extravascular contrast agents based on chelated gadolinium provide the key information.

CMR with the classic amyloid global, subendocardial late gadolinium enhancement pattern in the left ventricle with blood and mid-/epimyocardium nulling together.
Recently, the technique of equilibrium contrast CMR has demonstrated much higher extracellular myocardial volume in cardiac amyloid than any other measured disease. It is anticipated that accurate measurements of the expanded interstitium in amyloidosis will prove useful in serial quantification of cardiac amyloid burden.
Sequential static images from a CMR TI scout sequence. As the inversion time (TI) increases, myocardium nulls first (arrow in image 3), followed by blood afterwards (arrow in image 6), implying that there is more gadolinium contrast in the myocardium than blood—a degree of interstitial expansion such that the “myocrit” is smaller than the hematocrit.

Tissue biopsy.

To confirm amyloidosis, including familial TTR amyloidosis, the demonstration of amyloid deposition on biopsied tissues is essential. With Congo red staining, amyloid deposits show a characteristic yellow-green birefringence under polarized light. Tissues suitable for biopsy include: subcutaneous fatty tissue of the abdominal wall, skin, gastric or rectal mucosa, sural nerve, and peritendinous fat from specimens obtained at carpal tunnel surgery. Sensitivity of endoscopic biopsy of gastrointestinal mucosa is around 85%; biopsy of the sural nerve is less sensitive. It is ideal to show that these amyloid deposits are specifically immunolabeled by anti-TTR antibodies.

Serum variant TTR protein.

TTR protein normally circulates in serum or plasma as a soluble protein having a tetrameric structure [Kelly 1998, Rochet & Lansbury 2000]. Normal plasma TTR concentration is 20-40 mg/dL (0.20-0.40 mg/mL).  Pathogenic mutations in TTR cause conformational change in the TTR protein molecule, disrupting the stability of the TTR tetramer, which is then more easily dissociated into pro-amyloidogenic monomers.

After immunoprecipitation with anti-TTR antibody, serum variant TTR protein can be detected by mass spectrometry. Approximately 90% of TTR variants so far identified are confirmed by this method. Mass shift associated with each variant TTR protein is indicated.

Molecular genetic testing.

  • TTR is the only gene in which mutations are known to cause familial TTR amyloidosis.
  • Identified in many individuals of different ethnic backgrounds; found in large clusters in Portugal, Sweden, and Japan.
  • The gene has four exons; and all the hitherto-identified mutations are in exons 2, 3, or 4.
GeneReviews designates a molecular genetic test as clinically available only if the test is listed in the GeneTests Laboratory Directory by either a US CLIA-licensed laboratory or a non-US clinical laboratory.
  • Molecular genetic testing of TTR by sequence analysis (may be preceded by targeted mutation analysis)
  • Although deletion/duplication testing is available clinically, no exonic or whole-gene deletions or duplications involving TTR have been reported to cause familial transthyretin amyloidosis.
  • However, with newly available deletion/duplication testing methods, it is theoretically possible that such mutations may be identified in affected individuals in whom prior testing by sequence analysis of the entire coding region was negative.
  • Predictive testing for at-risk asymptomatic adult family members requires prior identification of the disease-causing mutation in the family.
  • Prenatal diagnosis and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for at-risk pregnancies require prior identification of the disease-causing mutation in the family.

Genetically Related (Allelic) Disorders

Familial euthyroid hyperthyroxinemia is caused by normal allelic variants in TTR, including Gly6Ser, Ala109Thr, Ala109Val, and Thr119Met (see Table 5) [Nakazato 1998, Benson 2001, Saraiva 2001]. The TTR protein binds approximately 15% of serum thyroxine. These mutations increase total serum thyroxine concentration because of their increased affinity for thyroxine, however, they increase neither free thyroxine nor free triiodothyronine. Therefore, individuals with these sequence variants develop no clinical symptoms (i.e., they are euthyroid).
Senile systemic amyloidosis (SSA; previously called senile cardiac amyloidosis) results from the pathologic deposition of wild-type TTR, predominantly in the heart. Pathologic deposits are also seen in the lungs, blood vessels, and the renal medulla of the kidneys [Westermark et al 2003]. SSA affects mainly the elderly but is rarely diagnosed during life.
Sensorimotor neuropathy and autonomic neuropathy progress over ten to 20 years. Various types of cardiac conduction block frequently appear. Cachexia is a common feature at the late stage of the disease. Affected individuals usually die of cardiac failure, renal failure, or infection.

Cardiac amyloidosis.

Cardiac amyloidosis, mainly characterized by progressive cardiomyopathy, has been reported with more than two thirds of TTR mutations. In some families with specific TTR mutations, such as Asp18Asn, Val20Ile, Pro24Ser, Ala45Thr, Ala45Ser, His56Arg, Gly57Arg, Ile68Leu, Ala81Thr, Ala81Val, His88Arg, Glu92Lys, Arg103Ser, Leu111Met, or Val122Ile, cardiomyopathy without peripheral neuropathy is a main feature of the disease.

Cardiac amyloidosis is usually late onset. Most individuals develop cardiac symptoms after age 50 years; cardiac amyloidosis generally presents with restrictive cardiomyopathy. The typical electrocardiogram shows a pseudoinfarction pattern with prominent Q wave in leads II, III, aVF, and V1-V3, presumably resulting from dense amyloid deposition in the anterobasal or anteroseptal wall of the left ventricle. The echocardiogram reveals left ventricular hypertrophy with preserved systolic function. The thickened walls present “a granular sparkling appearance.”
Among the mutations responsible for cardiac amyloidosis, Val122Ile is notable for its prevalence in African Americans. Approximately 3.0%-3.9% of African Americans are heterozygous for Val122Ile . The high frequency of Val122Ile partly explains the observation that in individuals in the US older than age 60 years, cardiac amyloidosis is four times more common among blacks than whites.

Leptomeningeal (oculoleptomeningeal) amyloidosis.

Amyloid deposition is seen in the pial and arachnoid membrane, as well as in the walls of vessels in the subarachnoid space associated with TTR mutations including Leu12Pro, Asp18Gly, Ala25Thr, Val30Gly, Ala36Pro, Gly53Glu, Gly53Ala, Phe64Ser, Tyr69His, or Tyr114Cys.  Individuals with leptomeningeal amyloidosis show CNS signs and symptoms including: dementia, psychosis, visual impairment, headache, seizures, motor paresis, ataxia, myelopathy, hydrocephalus, or intracranial hemorrhage. When associated with vitreous amyloid deposits, leptomeningeal amyloidosis is known as familial oculolepto-meningeal amyloidosis (FOLMA). In leptomeningeal amyloidosis protein concentration in the cerebrospinal fluid is usually high, and gadolinium-enhanced MRI typically shows extensive enhancement of the surface of the brain, ventricles, and spinal cord.

Genotype-Phenotype Correlations.

In subsets of families with the Val30Met mutation, considerable variation in phenotypic manifestations and age of onset is observed. It is hypothesized that genetic modifiers and non-genetic factors contribute to the pathogenesis and progression of familial TTR amyloidosis. The vast majority of individuals with familial TTR amyloidosis are heterozygous for a TTR mutation. It has been clinically and experimentally demonstrated that the normal allelic variant c.416C>T (Thr119Met) has a protective effect on amyloidogenesis in individuals who have the Val30Met mutation.

Cardiac amyloidosis is caused by Asp18Asn, Val20Ile, Pro24Ser, Ala45Thr, Ala45Ser, His56Arg, Gly57Arg, Ile68Leu, Ala81Thr, Ala81Val, His88Arg, Glu92Lys, Arg103Ser, Leu111Met, or Val122Ile. Peripheral and autonomic neuropathy are absent or less evident in persons with these mutations.
Leptomeningeal amyloidosis is associated with Leu12Pro, Asp18Gly, Ala25Thr, Val30Gly, Ala36Pro, Gly53Glu, Gly53Ala, Phe64Ser, Tyr69His, or Tyr114Cys.


It is generally accepted that the penetrance is much higher in individuals in endemic foci than outside of endemic foci. In Portugal, cumulative disease risk in individuals with the Val30Met mutation is estimated at 80% by age 50 and 91% by age 70 years, whereas the risk in French heterozygotes is 14% by age 50 and 50% by age 70 years. In Sweden, the penetrance is much lower: 1.7% by age 30, 5% by age 40, 11% by age 50, 22% by age 60, 36% by age 70, 52% by age 80, and 69% by age 90, respectively.


The neuropathy associated with TTR mutations, now called familial TTR amyloidosis, was formerly referred to as one of the following:
  • Familial amyloid polyneuropathy type I (or the Portuguese-Swedish-Japanese type)
  • Familial amyloid polyneuropathy type II (or the Indiana/Swiss or Maryland/German type)


The Val30Met mutation, found worldwide, is the most widely studied TTR variant and is responsible for the well-known large foci of individuals with TTR amyloid polyneuropathy in Portugal, Sweden, and Japan. Numerous families with various non-Val30Met mutations have also been identified worldwide.

 Small transthyretin (TTR) ligands as possible therapeutic agents in TTR amyloidoses.

Almeida MR, Gales L, Damas AM, Cardoso I, Saraiva MJ. Porto, Portugal.
Curr Drug Targets CNS Neurol Disord. 2005 Oct;4(5):587-96.
In transthyretin (TTR) amyloidosis TTR variants deposit as amyloid fibrils giving origin, in most cases, to peripheral polyneuropathy, cardiomyopathy, carpal tunnel syndrome and/or amyloid deposition in the eye. The amino acid substitutions in the TTR variants destabilize the tetramer, which may dissociate into non native monomeric intermediates that aggregate and polymerize in amyloid fibrils that further elongate. Since this is a multi-step process there is the possibility to impair TTR amyloid fibril formation at different stages of the process namely by tetramer stabilization, inhibition of fibril formation or fibril disruption. Based on the proposed mechanism for TTR amyloid fibril formation we discuss the action of some of the proposed TTR stabilizers such as derivatives of some NSAIDs (diflunisal, diclofenac, flufenamic acid, and derivatives) and the action of amyloid disrupters such as 4′-iodo-4′-deoxydoxorubicin (I-DOX) and tetracyclines. Among all these compounds, TTR stabilizers seem to be the most interesting since they would impair very early the process of amyloid formation and could also have a prophylactic effect.

Clusterin regulates transthyretin amyloidosis.

Lee KW, Lee DH, Son H, Kim YS, Park JY, et al.  Gyeongnam National University, South Korea
Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2009;388(2):256-60.
Clusterin has recently been proposed to play a role as an extracellular molecular chaperone, affecting the fibril formation of amyloidogenic proteins. The ability of clusterin to influence amyloid fibril formation prompted us to investigate whether clusterin is capable of inhibiting TTR amyloidosis. Here, we report that clusterin strongly interacts with wild-type TTR and TTR variants V30M and L55P under acidic conditions, and blocks the amyloid fibril formation of TTR variants. In particular, the amyloid fibril formation of V30M TTR in the presence of clusterin is reduced to level similar to wild-type TTR. We also demonstrated that clusterin is an effective inhibitor of L55P TTR amyloidosis, the most aggressive form of TTR diseases. The mechanism by which clusterin inhibits TTR amyloidosis appears to be through stabilization of TTR tetrameric structure.


Cardiac amyloidosis in general has a poor prognosis, but this differs according to amyloid type and availability and response to therapy. Treatment may be classified as follows: supportive therapy (ie, modified heart-failure treatment including device therapy); therapies that suppress production of the respective amyloid fibril precursor protein (eg, chemotherapy in AL amyloidosis); and novel strategies to inhibit amyloid fibril formation or to directly target the amyloid deposits or stabilize the precursor protein (especially in ATTR with drugs such as tafamidis or diflunisal). Cardiac transplantation, although rarely feasible, can be very successful in carefully selected patients.

Reducing Amyloid Fibril Precursor Protein Production

Treatment of amyloidosis is currently based on the concept of reducing the supply of the respective amyloid fibril precursor protein. In AL amyloidosis, therapy is directed toward the clonal plasma cells using either cyclical combination chemotherapy or high-dose therapy with autologous stem cell transplantation.
The newer treatment options include bortezomib (a proteosome inhibitor)105 and the newer immunomodulatory drugs lenalidomide and pomalidomide. Bortezomib combinations appear to be especially efficient in amyloidosis with high rates of near-complete clonal responses, which appear to translate into early cardiac responses.106–108 Phase II (bortezomib in combination with cyclophosphamide or doxorubicin) and phase III (bortezomib, melphalan, and dexamethasone compared to melphalan and dexamethasone as front-line treatment) trials are underway.
AA amyloidosis is the only other type of amyloidosis in which production of the fibril precursor protein can be effectively suppressed by currently available therapies. Anti-inflammatory therapies, such as anti-tumor necrosis factor agents in rheumatoid arthritis, can substantially suppress serum amyloid A protein production, but very little experience has been obtained regarding cardiac involvement, which is very rare in this particular type of amyloidosis.
TTR is produced almost exclusively in the liver, and TTR amyloidosis has lately become a focus for novel drug developments aimed at reducing production of TTR through silencing RNA and antisense oligonucleotide therapies. ALN-TTR01, a systemically delivered silencing RNA therapeutic, is already in phase I clinical trial. Liver transplantation has been used as a treatment for variant ATTR for 20 years, to remove genetically variant TTR from the plasma. Although this is a successful approach in ATTR Val30Met, it has had disappointing results in patients with other ATTR variants, which often involve the heart. The procedure commonly results in progressive cardiac amyloidosis through ongoing accumulation of wild-type TTR on the existing template of variant TTR amyloid. The role of liver transplantation in non-Val30Met–associated hereditary TTR amyloidosis thus remains very uncertain.

Inhibition of Amyloid Formation

Amyloid fibril formation involves massive conformational transformation of the respective precursor protein into a completely different form with predominant β-sheet structure. The hypothesis that this conversion might be inhibited by stabilizing the fibril precursor protein through specific binding to a pharmaceutical has lately been explored in TTR amyloidosis. A key step in TTR amyloid fibril formation is the dissociation of the normal TTR tetramer into monomeric species that can autoaggregate in a misfolded form. In vitro studies identified that diflunisal, a now little used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory analgesic, is bound by TTR in plasma, and that this enhances the stability of the normal soluble structure of the protein. Studies of diflunisal in ATTR are in progress. Tafamidis is a new compound without anti-inflammatory analgesic properties that has a similar mechanism of action. Tafamidis has just been licensed for neuropathic ATTR, but its role in cardiac amyloidosis remains uncertain, and clinical trial results are eagerly awaited. Higher-affinity “superstabilizers” are also in development.


Cardiac amyloidosis remains challenging to diagnose and to treat. Key “red flags” that should raise suspicion include clinical features indicating multisystem disease and concentric LV thickening on echocardiography in the absence of increased voltage on ECG; the pattern of gadolinium enhancement on CMR appears to be very characteristic. Confirmation of amyloid type is now possible in most cases through a combination of immunohistochemistry, DNA analysis, and proteomics. A variety of novel specific therapies are on the near horizon, with potential to both inhibit new amyloid formation and enhance clearance of existing deposits.

Future Prospects

Jeffery W. Kelly, the former Dean of Graduate Studies (2000-2008) and Vice President of Academic Affairs (2000-2006), currently is the Chairman of Molecular and Experimental Medicine and the Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Chemistry within the Skaggs Institute of Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.
The work on folding proteins by the Kelly Group focuses on
[1] understanding protein misfolding and aggregation and on developing both chemical
[2] and biological strategies
[3] to ameliorate diseases caused by protein misfolding and/or aggregation.
Besides studying the structural and energetic basis behind protein folding, his laboratory also studies the etiology of neurodegenerative diseases linked to protein aggregation, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and the familial gelsolin and transthyretin-based amyloidoses–publishing over 250 peer-reviewed papers in this area to date. He has also provided insight into genetic diseases associated with loss of protein function, such as lysosomal storage diseases.
Kelly has cofounded three biotechnology companies, FoldRx Pharmaceuticals (with Susan Lindquist), now owned by Pfizer, Proteostasis Therapeutics, Inc. (with Andrew Dillin and Richard Morimoto) (a private corporation) and Misfolding Diagnostics (with Xin Jiang and Justin Chapman; a private corporation). The Kelly laboratory discovered the first regulatory agency-approved drug that slows the progression of a human amyloid disease using a structure-based design approach. This drug, now called Tafamidis or Vyndaqel, slowed the progression of familial amyloid polyneuropathy in an 18 month placebo controlled trial and in an 18 month extension study sponsored by FoldRx Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Pfizer in 2010). Vyndaqel or Tafamidis  was approved for the treatment of Familial amyloid Polyneuropathy by the European Medicines Agency in late 2011. Kelly also discovered that diflunisal kinetically stabilizes transthyretin, enabling a placebo controlled clinical trial with it to ameliorate familial amyloid polyneuropathy–the results of which will be announced in 2013. Proteostasis Therapeutics, Inc. is developing first-in-class drugs that adapt the proteostasis network to ameliorate both loss-of-function misfolding diseases and gain-of-toxic function diseases linked to protein aggregation.
In addition to discovering the first drug that slows the progression of a human amyloid disease, the Kelly Laboratory is credited with demonstrating that transthyretin conformational changes alone are sufficient for amyloidogenesis, discovering the first example of functional amyloid in mammals, making major contributions toward understanding β-sheet folding, discovering the “enhanced aromatic sequon”–sequences that are more efficiently glycosylated by cells and sequences which stabilize the proteins that they are incorporated into as a consequence of N-glycosylation and was corresponding author on and contributed some of the key experimental data demonstrating that altering cellular proteostasis capacity has the potential to alleviate protein misfolding and aggregation diseases.
Native state kinetic stabilization as a strategy to ameliorate protein misfolding diseases: a focus on the transthyretin amyloidoses. Johnson SM, Wiseman RL, Sekijima Y, Green NS, Adamski-Werner SL, Kelly JW.
Small molecule-mediated protein stabilization inside or outside of the cell is a promising strategy to treat protein misfolding/misassembly diseases. Herein we focus on the transthyretin (TTR) amyloidoses and demonstrate that preferential ligand binding to and stabilization of the native state over the dissociative transition state raises the kinetic barrier of dissociation (rate-limiting for amyloidogenesis), slowing and in many cases preventing TTR amyloid fibril formation. Since T119M-TTR subunit incorporation into tetramers otherwise composed of disease-associated subunits also imparts kinetic stability on the tetramer and ameliorates amyloidosis in humans, it is likely that small molecule-mediated native state kinetic stabilization will also alleviate TTR amyloidoses.
Energetic characteristics of the new transthyretin variant A25T may explain its atypical central nervous system pathology.
Sekijima Y, Hammarström P, Matsumura M, Shimizu Y, Iwata M, Tokuda T, Ikeda S, Kelly JW.
Lab Invest. 2003 Mar;83(3):409-17.
Transthyretin (TTR) is a tetrameric protein that must misfold to form amyloid fibrils. Misfolding includes rate-limiting tetramer dissociation, followed by fast tertiary structural changes that enable aggregation. Amyloidogenesis of wild-type (WT) TTR causes a late-onset cardiac disease called senile systemic amyloidosis. The aggregation of one of > 80 TTR variants leads to familial amyloidosis encompassing a collection of disorders characterized by peripheral neuropathy and/or cardiomyopathy. Prominent central nervous system (CNS) impairment is rare in TTR amyloidosis. Herein, we identify a new A25T TTR variant in a Japanese patient who presented with CNS amyloidosis at age 42 and peripheral neuropathy at age 44. The A25T variant is the most destabilized and fastest dissociating TTR tetramer published to date, yet, surprising, disease onset is in the fifth decade. Quantification of A25T TTR in the serum of this heterozygote reveals low levels relative to WT, suggesting that protein concentration influences disease phenotype. Another recently characterized TTR CNS variant (D18G TTR) exhibits strictly analogous characteristics, suggesting that instability coupled with low serum concentrations is the signature of CNS pathology and protects against early-onset systemic amyloidosis. The low A25T serum concentration may be explained either by impaired secretion from the liver or by increased clearance, both scenarios consistent with A25T’s low kinetic and thermodynamic stability. Liver transplantation is the only known treatment for familial amyloid polyneuropathy. This is a form of gene therapy that removes the variant protein from serum preventing systemic amyloidosis. Unfortunately, the choroid plexus would have to be resected to remove A25T from the CSF-the source of the CNS TTR amyloid. Herein we demonstrate that small-molecule tetramer stabilizers represent an attractive therapeutic strategy to inhibit A25T misfolding and CNS amyloidosis. Specifically, 2-[(3,5-dichlorophenyl)amino]benzoic acid is an excellent inhibitor of A25T TTR amyloidosis in vitro.
Prevention of Transthyretin Amyloid Disease by Changing Protein Misfolding Energetics
Per Hammarström*, R. Luke Wiseman*, Evan T. Powers, Jeffery W. Kelly†
Science 31 Jan 2003; 299(5607):713-716
Genetic evidence suggests that inhibition of amyloid fibril formation by small molecules should be effective against amyloid diseases. Known amyloid inhibitors appear to function by shifting the aggregation equilibrium away from the amyloid state. Here, we describe a series of transthyretin amyloidosis inhibitors that functioned by increasing the kinetic barrier associated with misfolding, preventing amyloidogenesis by stabilizing the native state. The trans-suppressor mutation, threonine 119 → methionine 119, which is known to ameliorate familial amyloid disease, also functioned through kinetic stabilization, implying that this small-molecule strategy should be effective in treating amyloid diseases.
R104H may suppress transthyretin amyloidogenesis by thermodynamic stabilization, but not by the kinetic mechanism characterizing T119 interallelic trans-suppression.
Sekijima Y, Dendle MT, Wiseman RL, White JT, D’Haeze W, Kelly JW.
Amyloid. Jun 2006;13(2):57-66.
The tetrameric protein transthyretin (TTR) forms amyloid fibrils upon dissociation and subsequent monomer misfolding, enabling misassembly. Remarkably, the aggregation of one of over 100 destabilized TTR variants leads to familial amyloid disease. It is known that trans-suppression mediated by the incorporation of T119M subunits into tetramers otherwise composed of the most common familial variant V30M, ameliorates disease by substantially slowing the rate of tetramer dissociation, a mechanism referred to as kinetic stabilization of the native state. R104H TTR has been reported to be non-pathogenic, and recently, this variant has been invoked as a trans-suppressor of amyloid fibril formation. Here, we demonstrate that the trans-suppression mechanism of R104H does not involve kinetic stabilization of the tetrameric structure, instead its modest trans-suppression most likely results from the thermodynamic stabilization of the tetrameric TTR structure. Thermodynamic stabilization increases the fraction of tetramer at the expense of the misfolding competent monomer decreasing the ability of TTR to aggregate into amyloid fibrils. As a consequence of this stabilization mechanism, R104H may be capable of protecting patients with modestly destabilizing mutations against amyloidosis by slightly lowering the overall population of monomeric protein that can misfold and form amyloid.
Amyloidosis, Node, Congo Red. The amyloid depo...

Amyloidosis, Node, Congo Red. The amyloid deposits are strongly congophilic when viewed before white light. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Amyloidosis (Photo credit: Boonyarit Cheunsuchon)

English: Intermed. mag. (H&E). Image:Cardiac a...

English: Intermed. mag. (H&E). Image:Cardiac amyloidosis high mag he.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Intermed. mag. (H&E). Image:Cardiac a...

English: Intermed. mag. (H&E). Image:Cardiac amyloidosis high mag he.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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