The effect of disease-associated mutations on the folding pathway of human prion protein
ABSTRACT Propagation of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies is believed to involve the conversion of cellular prion protein, PrP(C), into a misfolded oligomeric form, PrP(Sc). An important step toward understanding the mechanism of this conversion is to elucidate the folding pathway(s) of the prion protein. We reported recently (Apetri, A. C., and Surewicz, W. K. (2002) J. Biol. Chem. 277, 44589-44592) that the folding of wild-type prion protein can best be described by a three-state sequential model involving a partially folded intermediate. Here we have performed kinetic stopped-flow studies for a number of recombinant prion protein variants carrying mutations associated with familial forms of prion disease. Analysis of kinetic data clearly demonstrates the presence of partially structured intermediates on the refolding pathway of each PrP variant studied. In each case, the partially folded state is at least one order of magnitude more populated than the fully unfolded state. The present study also reveals that, for the majority of PrP variants tested, mutations linked to familial prion diseases result in a pronounced increase in the thermodynamic stability, and thus the population, of the folding intermediate. These data strongly suggest that partially structured intermediates of PrP may play a crucial role in prion protein conversion, serving as direct precursors of the pathogenic PrP(Sc) isoform.
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ABSTRACT: The mechanisms underlying the selective targeting of specific brain regions by different neurodegenerative diseases is one of the most intriguing mysteries in medicine. For example, it is known that Alzheimer's disease primarily affects parts of the brain that play a role in memory, whereas Parkinson's disease predominantly affects parts of the brain that are involved in body movement. However, the reasons that other brain regions remain unaffected in these diseases are unknown. A better understanding of the phenomenon of selective vulnerability is required for the development of targeted therapeutic approaches that specifically protect affected neurons, thereby altering the disease course and preventing its progression. Prion diseases are a fascinating group of neurodegenerative diseases because they exhibit a wide phenotypic spectrum caused by different sequence perturbations in a single protein. The possible ways that mutations affecting this protein can cause several distinct neurodegenerative diseases are explored in this Review to highlight the complexity underlying selective vulnerability. The premise of this article is that selective vulnerability is determined by the interaction of specific protein conformers and region-specific microenvironments harboring unique combinations of subcellular components such as metals, chaperones and protein translation machinery. Given the abundance of potential contributory factors in the neurodegenerative process, a better understanding of how these factors interact will provide invaluable insight into disease mechanisms to guide therapeutic discovery.Disease Models and Mechanisms 01/2014; 7(1):21-9. DOI:10.1242/dmm.012146 · 5.54 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: A crucial tenet of the prion hypothesis is that misfolding of the prion protein (PrP) induced by mutations associated with familial prion disease is, in an otherwise normal mammalian brain, sufficient to generate the infectious agent. Yet this has never been demonstrated. We engineered knockin mice to express a PrP mutation associated with a distinct human prion disease, fatal familial insomnia (FFI). An additional substitution created a strong transmission barrier against pre-existing prions. The mice spontaneously developed a disease distinct from that of other mouse prion models and highly reminiscent of FFI. Unique pathology was transmitted from FFI mice to mice expressing wild-type PrP sharing the same transmission barrier. FFI mice were highly resistant to infection by pre-existing prions, confirming infectivity did not arise from contaminating agents. Thus, a single amino acid change in PrP is sufficient to induce a distinct neurodegenerative disease and the spontaneous generation of prion infectivity.Neuron 09/2009; 63(4):438-50. DOI:10.1016/j.neuron.2009.07.026 · 15.98 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Computational simulations of the conversion from the normal cellular prion (PrP<sup>c</sup>) to the scrapie prion (PrP<sup>Sc</sup>) are usually based on the structures determined by NMR because of the difficulties in crystallizing prion protein. Due to insufficient experimental restraints, a biologically critical loop region in PrP<sup>c</sup> (residues 167-171), which is a potential binding site for Protein X, is under-determined in most mammalian species. Here, we show that by adding information about distance constraints derived from a database of high-resolution protein structures, this under-determined loop as well as other secondary structural elements of the E200K variant of human prion protein (hPrP<sup>c</sup>), a disease-related isoform, can be refined into more realistic structures in the structural ensemble with improved quality and increased accuracy. In particular, the ensemble becomes more compact after the refinement and the percentage of residues in the most favourable region of the Ramachandran diagram is increased to about 90% in the refined structures from the 80 to 85% range in the previously reported structures. Our results not only provide significantly improved structures of the prion protein and hence would facilitate insights into its conversion in the spongiform encephalopathies, but also demonstrate the strong potential for using databases of known protein structures for structure determination and refinement.Bioinformatics and Biomedicine Workshops, 2007. BIBMW 2007. IEEE International Conference on; 12/2007