The diffusion of protons along biological surfaces and the interaction of biological structures with water are fundamental areas of interest in biology and chemistry. Here, we examine the surface of insulin amyloid fibrils and follow the binding of small molecules (photoacids) that differ according to the number and location of their sulfonic groups. We use transient fluorescence combined with a spherically-symmetric diffusion theory to show that the binding mode of different photoacids determines the efficiency of proton dissociation from the photoacid and the dimensionality of the proton's diffusion. We use molecular dynamics simulations to examine the binding mode and mechanism of the photoacids and its influence on the unique kinetic rates and diffusion properties of the photoacid's dissociated proton, where we also suggest a proton transfer process between one of the photoacids to proximal histidine residues. We show that the photoacids can be used as fluorescent markers for following the progression of amyloidogenic processes. The detailed characterisation of different binding modes to the surface of amyloid fibrils paves the way for better understanding of the binding mechanism of small molecules to amyloid fibrils.
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