Enhanced hexamerization of insulin via assembly pathway rerouting revealed by single particle studies

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Insulin formulations with diverse oligomerization states are the hallmark of interventions for the treatment of diabetes. Here using single-molecule recordings we firstly reveal that insulin oligomerization can operate via monomeric additions and secondly quantify the existence, abundance and kinetic characterization of diverse insulin assembly and disassembly pathways involving addition of monomeric, dimeric or tetrameric insulin species. We propose and experimentally validate a model where the insulin self-assembly pathway is rerouted, favoring monomeric or oligomeric assembly, by solution concentration, additives and formulations. Combining our practically complete kinetic characterization with rate simulations, we calculate the abundance of each oligomeric species from nM to mM offering mechanistic insights and the relative abundance of all oligomeric forms at concentrations relevant both for secreted and administrated insulin. These reveal a high abundance of all oligomers and a significant fraction of hexamer resulting in practically halved bioavailable monomer concentration. In addition to providing fundamental new insights, the results and toolbox presented here can be universally applied, contributing to the development of optimal insulin formulations and the deciphering of oligomerization mechanisms for additional proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Article number178
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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