We used a de novo designed, β-hairpin forming T1 peptide as a model to investigate the kinetics of peptide fibrogenesis by a combination of light scattering (LS), circular dichroism (CD), fluorescence, and atomic force microscopy (AFM). The results demonstrate that the T1 fibrogenesis undergoes a consecutive stepwise process, with a high degree of cooperation, presenting sigmoidal time-courses of the peptide aggregation, the subsequent conformational conversion of the backbone, and the peptide sidechains rearrangement. We suggest that the conformational conversion was initiated after the peptide aggregates reach a dimensional size threshold, which could be a key step in the formation of β-structural nuclei that catalyze the subsequent reactions. Furthermore, besides triggering the peptide aggregation, the interactions between the peptide sidechains predominately facilitate the regular alignment of the peptide molecules and the formation of a well-defined suprastructure. This work provides an insight of the hierarchical self-assembly of β-hairpin forming peptides. It is helpful for designing β-structural peptides for self-assembly into nanowires, which would have potential applications in the construction of nano-materials.
Keywords: β-hairpin self-assembly, sigmoidal time-course, conformational conversion, aggregation, sidechains' rearrangement