Ascorbic acid (AsA) is an important antioxidant and enzyme cofactor in many biochemical processes. Most biological activities of AsA are closely related to its redox properties. Recent investigations have demonstrated that AsA is associated with amyloid-related diseases and can inhibit amyloid aggregation of polypeptides. In the present study, we determined the kinetics of AsA degradation and investigated the anti-amyloidogenic activities of AsA and its degradation products by utilizing insulin as a model polypeptide. The results showed that the half-life of AsA varied with the pH of the medium and the incubation temperature. The degradation products of AsA inhibited insulin fibrillation, with an activity positively correlated to the degree of AsA degradation. The degradation species, compared with intact AsA, also showed a stronger disruptive effect on mature amyloid fibrils and significantly decreased fibrillar cytotoxicity. Dehydroascorbic acid and diketogulonic acid, two key intermediates in AsA degradation, had similar anti-amyloidogenic activity toward the degradation species of AsA. The results of this work indicate that degradation of natural antioxidants must be considered when evaluating their anti-amyloidogenic effects. These insights into the action of AsA may also provide a novel route to understand its physiological/pharmacological roles in amyloid-related diseases.
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