Medin, a 50-amino-acid cleavage product of the milk fat globule-EGF factor 8 protein, is one of the most common forms of localized amyloid found in the vasculature of individuals older than 50 years. Medin induces endothelial dysfunction and vascular inflammation, yet despite its prevalence in the human aorta and multiple arterial beds, little is known about the nature of its pathology. Medin oligomers have been implicated in the pathology of aortic aneurysm, aortic dissection, and more recently, vascular dementia. Recent in vitro biomechanical measurements found increased oligomer levels in aneurysm patients with altered aortic wall integrity. Our results suggest an oligomer-mediated toxicity mechanism for medin pathology. Using lipid bilayer electrophysiology, we show that medin oligomers induce ionic membrane permeability by pore formation. Pore activity was primarily observed for preaggregated medin species from the growth-phase and rarely for lag-phase species. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) imaging of medin aggregates at different stages of aggregation revealed the gradual formation of flat domains resembling the morphology of supported lipid bilayers. Transmission electron microscopy images showed the coexistence of compact oligomers, largely consistent with the AFM data, and larger protofibrillar structures. Circular dichroism spectroscopy revealed the presence of largely disordered species and suggested the presence of β-sheets. This observation and the significantly lower thioflavin T fluorescence emitted by medin aggregates compared to amyloid-β fibrils, along with the absence of amyloid fibers in the AFM and transmission electron microscopy images, suggest that medin aggregation into pores follows a nonamyloidogenic pathway. In silico modeling by molecular dynamics simulations provides atomic-level structural detail of medin pores with the CNpNC barrel topology and diameters comparable to values estimated from experimental pore conductances.
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