Patients with type II diabetes exhibit fibrillar deposits of human amylin protein in the pancreas. It has been proposed that amylin oligomers arising along the aggregation or fibril-formation pathways are important in the genesis of the disease. In a step toward understanding these aggregation pathways, in this work we report the conformational preferences of human amylin monomer in solution using molecular simulations and infrared experiments. In particular, we identify a stable conformer that could play a key role in aggregation. We find that amylin adopts three stable conformations: one with an α-helical segment comprising residues 9-17 and a short antiparallel β-sheet comprising residues 24-28 and 31-35; one with an extended antiparallel β-hairpin with the turn region comprising residues 20-23; and one with no particular structure. Using detailed calculations, we determine the relative stability of these various conformations, finding that the β-hairpin conformation is the most stable, followed by the α-helical conformation, and then the unstructured coil. To test our predicted structure, we calculate its infrared spectrum in the amide I stretch regime, which is sensitive to secondary structure through vibrational couplings and line- widths, and compare it to experiment. We find that theoretically predicted spectra are in good agreement with the experimental line shapes presented herein. The implications of the monomer secondary structures on its aggregation pathway and on its interaction with cell membranes are discussed.
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