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      Evidence for the Conformation of the Pathologic Isoform of the Prion Protein Enciphering and Propagating Prion Diversity

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          Most cited references 38

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          Principles that govern the folding of protein chains.

           C ANFINSEN (1973)
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            Conversion of alpha-helices into beta-sheets features in the formation of the scrapie prion proteins.

            Prions are composed largely, if not entirely, of prion protein (PrPSc in the case of scrapie). Although the formation of PrPSc from the cellular prion protein (PrPC) is a post-translational process, no candidate chemical modification was identified, suggesting that a conformational change features in PrPSc synthesis. To assess this possibility, we purified both PrPC and PrPSc by using nondenaturing procedures and determined the secondary structure of each. Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy demonstrated that PrPC has a high alpha-helix content (42%) and no beta-sheet (3%), findings that were confirmed by circular dichroism measurements. In contrast, the beta-sheet content of PrPSc was 43% and the alpha-helix 30% as measured by FTIR. As determined in earlier studies, N-terminally truncated PrPSc derived by limited proteolysis, designated PrP 27-30, has an even higher beta-sheet content (54%) and a lower alpha-helix content (21%). Neither PrPC nor PrPSc formed aggregates detectable by electron microscopy, while PrP 27-30 polymerized into rod-shaped amyloids. While the foregoing findings argue that the conversion of alpha-helices into beta-sheets underlies the formation of PrPSc, we cannot eliminate the possibility that an undetected chemical modification of a small fraction of PrPSc initiates this process. Since PrPSc seems to be the only component of the "infectious" prion particle, it is likely that this conformational transition is a fundamental event in the propagation of prions.
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              NMR structure of the mouse prion protein domain PrP(121-231).

               R Riek,  G Wider,  M Billeter (1996)
              The 'protein only' hypothesis states that a modified form of normal prion protein triggers infectious neurodegenerative diseases, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans. Prion proteins are thought to exist in two different conformations: the 'benign' PrPcform, and the infectious 'scrapie form', PrPsc. Knowledge of the three-dimensional structure of PrPc is essential for understanding the transition to PrPsc. The nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) structure of the autonomously folding PrP domain comprising residues 121-231 (ref. 6) contains a two-stranded antiparallel beta-sheet and three alpha-helices. This domain contains most of the point-mutation sites that have been linked, in human PrP, to the occurrence of familial prion diseases. The NMR structure shows that these mutations occur within, or directly adjacent to, regular secondary structures. The presence of a beta-sheet in PrP(121-231) is in contrast with model predictions of an all-helical structure of PrPc (ref. 8), and may be important for the initiation of the transition from PrPc to PrPsc.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Science
                Science
                American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
                0036-8075
                1095-9203
                December 20 1996
                December 20 1996
                : 274
                : 5295
                : 2079-2082
                Article
                10.1126/science.274.5295.2079
                © 1996

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