Comparative computational analysis of prion proteins reveals two fragments with unusual structural properties and a pattern of increase in hydrophobicity associated with disease-promoting mutations.
ABSTRACT: Prion diseases are a group of neurodegenerative disorders associated with conversion of a normal prion protein, PrPC, into a pathogenic conformation, PrPSc. The PrPSc is thought to promote the conversion of PrPC. The structure and stability of PrPC are well characterized, whereas little is known about the structure of PrPSc, what parts of PrPC undergo conformational transition, or how mutations facilitate this transition. We use a computational knowledge-based approach to analyze the intrinsic structural propensities of the C-terminal domain of PrP and gain insights into possible mechanisms of structural conversion. We compare the properties of PrP sequences to those of a PrP paralog, Doppel, and to the distributions of structural propensities observed in known protein structures from the Protein Data Bank. We show that the prion protein contains at least two sequence fragments with highly unusual intrinsic propensities, PrP(114-125) and helix B. No segments with unusual properties were found in Doppel protein, which is topologically identical to PrP but does not undergo structural rearrangements. Known disease-promoting PrP mutations form a statistically significant cluster in the region comprising helices B and C. Due to their unusual properties, PrP(114-125) and the C terminus of helix B may be considered as primary candidates for sites involved in conformational transition from PrPC to PrPSc. The results of our study also show that most PrP mutations associated with neurodegenerative disorders increase local hydrophobicity. We suggest that the observed increase in hydrophobicity may facilitate PrP-to-PrP or/and PrP-to-cofactor interactions, and thus promote structural conversion.
Project description:Prion diseases are associated with the conversion of the alpha-helix rich prion protein (PrPC) into a beta-structure-rich insoluble conformer (PrPSc) that is thought to be infectious. The mechanism for the PrPC-->PrPSc conversion and its relationship with the pathological effects of prion diseases are poorly understood, partly because of our limited knowledge of the structure of PrPSc. In particular, the way in which mutations in the PRNP gene yield variants that confer different susceptibilities to disease needs to be clarified. We report here the 2.5-A-resolution crystal structures of three scrapie-susceptibility ovine PrP variants complexed with an antibody that binds to PrPC and to PrPSc; they identify two important features of the PrPC-->PrPSc conversion. First, the epitope of the antibody mainly consists of the last two turns of ovine PrP second alpha-helix. We show that this is a structural invariant in the PrPC-->PrPSc conversion; taken together with biochemical data, this leads to a model of the conformational change in which the two PrPC C-terminal alpha-helices are conserved in PrPSc, whereas secondary structure changes are located in the N-terminal alpha-helix. Second, comparison of the structures of scrapie-sensitivity variants defines local changes in distant parts of the protein that account for the observed differences of PrPC stability, resistant variants being destabilized compared with sensitive ones. Additive contributions of these sensitivity-modulating mutations to resistance suggest a possible causal relationship between scrapie resistance and lowered stability of the PrP protein.
Project description:Conformational conversion of the cellular prion protein, PrPC, into the abnormally folded isoform, PrPSc, is a key pathogenic event in prion diseases. However, the exact conversion mechanism remains largely unknown. Transgenic mice expressing PrP with a deletion of the central residues 91-106 were generated in the absence of endogenous PrPC, designated Tg(PrP?91-106)/Prnp0/0 mice and intracerebrally inoculated with various prions. Tg(PrP?91-106)/Prnp0/0 mice were resistant to RML, 22L and FK-1 prions, neither producing PrPSc?91-106 or prions in the brain nor developing disease after inoculation. However, they remained marginally susceptible to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) prions, developing disease after elongated incubation times and accumulating PrPSc?91-106 and prions in the brain after inoculation with BSE prions. Recombinant PrP?91-104 converted into PrPSc?91-104 after incubation with BSE-PrPSc-prions but not with RML- and 22L-PrPSc-prions, in a protein misfolding cyclic amplification assay. However, digitonin and heparin stimulated the conversion of PrP?91-104 into PrPSc?91-104 even after incubation with RML- and 22L-PrPSc-prions. These results suggest that residues 91-106 or 91-104 of PrPC are crucially involved in prion pathogenesis in a strain-dependent manner and may play a similar role to digitonin and heparin in the conversion of PrPC into PrPSc.
Project description:Prion diseases are transmissible neurodegenerative disorders of prion protein (PrP) conformation. Prion replication by conversion of benign PrPC isoforms into disease-specific PrPSc isoforms is intimately involved in prion disease pathogenesis and may be initiated in cholesterol-rich caveolae-like domains (CLD). Concentrations of the cholesterol transporter ATP-binding cassette A1 protein (ABCA1) are elevated in pre-clinical scrapie prion-infected mice and in prion-infected cells in vitro. Elevation of ABCA1 in prion-infected brain is not a direct consequence of local PrPSc accumulation, indeed levels of ABCA1 are comparable in brain regions that differ dramatically in the amount of PrPSc. Similarly, ABCA1 concentrations are identical in normal mice, transgenic mice overexpressing PrP and PrP knockout mice. In contrast, PrPC and PrPSc levels, but not Prnp mRNA, were increased by overexpression of ABCA1 in N2a neuroblastoma cells and scrapie prion-infected N2a cells (ScN2a). Conversely, RNAi-mediated knock down of Abca1 expression decreased the concentrations of PrPC in N2a cells and of PrPSc in ScN2a cells. These results suggest that ABCA1's effects on PrPC levels are post-translational and may reflect an increase in of PrPC stability, mediated either indirectly by increasing membrane cholesterol and CLD formation or by other functions of ABCA1. The increased supply of PrPC available for conversion would lead to increased PrPSc formation.
Project description:A central step in the pathogenesis of prion diseases is the conformational transition of the cellular prion protein (PrPC) into the scrapie isoform, denoted PrPSc Studies in transgenic mice have indicated that this conversion requires a direct interaction between PrPC and PrPSc; however, insights into the underlying mechanisms are still missing. Interestingly, only a subfraction of PrPC is converted in scrapie-infected cells, suggesting that not all PrPC species are suitable substrates for the conversion. On the basis of the observation that PrPC can form homodimers under physiological conditions with the internal hydrophobic domain (HD) serving as a putative dimerization domain, we wondered whether PrP dimerization is involved in the formation of neurotoxic and/or infectious PrP conformers. Here, we analyzed the possible impact on dimerization of pathogenic mutations in the HD that induce a spontaneous neurodegenerative disease in transgenic mice. Similarly to wildtype (WT) PrPC, the neurotoxic variant PrP(AV3) formed homodimers as well as heterodimers with WTPrPC Notably, forced PrP dimerization via an intermolecular disulfide bond did not interfere with its maturation and intracellular trafficking. Covalently linked PrP dimers were complex glycosylated, GPI-anchored, and sorted to the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane. However, forced PrPC dimerization completely blocked its conversion into PrPSc in chronically scrapie-infected mouse neuroblastoma cells. Moreover, PrPC dimers had a dominant-negative inhibition effect on the conversion of monomeric PrPC Our findings suggest that PrPC monomers are the major substrates for PrPSc propagation and that it may be possible to halt prion formation by stabilizing PrPC dimers.
Project description:The post-translational conversion of the ubiquitously expressed cellular form of the prion protein, PrPC, into its misfolded and pathogenic isoform, known as prion or PrPSc, plays a key role in prion diseases. These maladies are denoted transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) and affect both humans and animals. A prerequisite for understanding TSEs is unraveling the molecular mechanism leading to the conversion process whereby most ?-helical motifs are replaced by ?-sheet secondary structures. Importantly, most point mutations linked to inherited prion diseases are clustered in the C-terminal domain region of PrPC and cause spontaneous conversion to PrPSc. Structural studies with PrP variants promise new clues regarding the proposed conversion mechanism and may help identify "hot spots" in PrPC involved in the pathogenic conversion. These investigations may also shed light on the early structural rearrangements occurring in some PrPC epitopes thought to be involved in modulating prion susceptibility. Here we present a detailed overview of our solution-state NMR studies on human prion protein carrying different pathological point mutations and the implications that such findings may have for the future of prion research.
Project description:Prion diseases are infectious neurodegenerative disorders of humans and animals caused by misfolded forms of the cellular prion protein PrPC. Prions cause disease by converting PrPC into aggregation-prone PrPSc. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is the most contagious prion disease with substantial lateral transmission, affecting free-ranging and farmed cervids. Although the PrP primary structure is highly conserved among cervids, the disease phenotype can be modulated by species-specific polymorphisms in the prion protein gene. How the resulting amino-acid substitutions impact PrPC and PrPSc structure and propagation is poorly understood. We investigated the effects of the cervid 116A>G substitution, located in the most conserved PrP domain, on PrPC structure and conversion and on 116AG-prion conformation and infectivity. Molecular dynamics simulations revealed structural de-stabilization of 116G-PrP, which enhanced its in vitro conversion efficiency when used as recombinant PrP substrate in real-time quaking-induced conversion (RT-QuIC). We demonstrate that 116AG-prions are conformationally less stable, show lower activity as a seed in RT-QuIC and exhibit reduced infectivity in vitro and in vivo. Infectivity of 116AG-prions was significantly enhanced upon secondary passage in mice, yet conformational features were retained. These findings indicate that structurally de-stabilized PrPC is readily convertible by cervid prions of different genetic background and results in a prion conformation adaptable to cervid wild-type PrP. Conformation is an important criterion when assessing transmission barrier, and conformational variants can target a different host range. Therefore, a thorough analysis of CWD isolates and re-assessment of species-barriers is important in order to fully exclude a zoonotic potential of CWD.
Project description:Prion diseases are infectious neurodegenerative disorders linked to the accumulation in the central nervous system of the abnormally folded prion protein (PrP) scrapie (PrPsc), which is thought to be the infectious agent. Once present, PrPsc catalyzes the conversion of naturally occurring cellular PrP (PrPc) to PrPsc. Prion infection is usually initiated in peripheral organs, but the mechanisms involved in infectious spread to the brain are unclear. We found that both PrPc and PrPsc were actively released into the extracellular environment by PrP-expressing cells before and after infection with sheep prions, respectively. Based on Western blot with specific markers, MS, and morphological analysis, our data revealed that PrPc and PrPsc in the medium are associated with exosomes, membranous vesicles that are secreted upon fusion of multivesicular endosomes with the plasma membrane. Furthermore, we found that exosomes bearing PrPsc are infectious. Our data suggest that exosomes may contribute to intercellular membrane exchange and the spread of prions throughout the organism.
Project description:The conversion of the normal cellular prion protein (PrPC) to the misfolded pathogenic scrapie prion protein (PrPSc) is the biochemical hallmark of prion replication. So far, various chemical compounds that inhibit this conformational conversion have been identified. Here, we report the novel anti-prion activity of SGI-1027 and its meta/meta analogue (M/M), previously known only as potent inhibitors of DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs). These compounds effectively decreased the level of PrPSc in cultured cells with permanent prion infection, without affecting PrPC at the transcriptional or translational levels. Furthermore, SGI-1027 prevented effective prion infection of the cells. In a PrP aggregation assay, both SGI-1027 and M/M blocked the formation of misfolded PrP aggregates, implying that binding of these compounds hinders the PrP conversion process. A series of binding and docking analyses demonstrated that both SGI-1027 and M/M directly interacted with the C-terminal globular domain of PrPC, but only SGI-1027 bound to a specific region of PrPC with high affinity, which correlates with its potent anti-prion efficacy. Therefore, we report SGI-1027 and related compounds as a novel class of potential anti-prion agents that preferentially function through direct interaction with PrPC.
Project description:Prions are composed solely of the pathological isoform (PrPSc) of the normal cellular prion protein (PrPC). Identification of different PrPSc structures is crucially important for understanding prion biology because the pathogenic properties of prions are hypothesized to be encoded in the structures of PrPSc However, these structures remain yet to be identified, because of the incompatibility of PrPSc with conventional high-resolution structural analysis methods. Previously, we reported that the region between the first and the second ?-helix (H1?H2) of PrPC might cooperate with the more C-terminal side region for efficient interactions with PrPSc From this starting point, we created a series of PrP variants with two cysteine substitutions (C;C-PrP) forming a disulfide-crosslink between H1?H2 and the distal region of the third helix (Ctrm). We then assessed the conversion capabilities of the C;C-PrP variants in N2a cells infected with mouse-adapted scrapie prions (22L-ScN2a). Specifically, Cys substitutions at residues 165, 166, or 168 in H1?H2 were combined with cysteine scanning along Ctrm residues 220-229. We found that C;C-PrPs are expressed normally with glycosylation patterns and subcellular localization similar to WT PrP, albeit differing in expression levels. Interestingly, some C;C-PrPs converted to protease-resistant isoforms in the 22L-ScN2a cells, but not in Fukuoka1 prion-infected cells. Crosslink patterns of convertible C;C-PrPs indicated a positional change of H1?H2 toward Ctrm in PrPSc-induced conformational conversion. Given the properties of the C;C-PrPs reported here, we propose that these PrP variants may be useful tools for investigating prion strain-specific structures and structure-phenotype relationships of PrPSc.
Project description:Both sporadic variably protease-sensitive prionopathy (VPSPr) and familial Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease linked to the prion protein (PrP) V180I mutation (fCJDV180I) have been found to share a unique pathological prion protein (PrPSc) that lacks the protease-resistant PrPSc glycosylated at residue 181 because two of four PrP glycoforms are apparently not converted into the PrPSc from their cellular PrP (PrPC). To investigate the seeding activity of these unique PrPSc molecules, we conducted in vitro prion conversion experiments using serial protein misfolding cyclic amplification (sPMCA) and real-time quaking-induced conversion (RT-QuIC) assays with different PrPC substrates. We observed that the seeding of PrPSc from VPSPr or fCJDV180I in the sPMCA reaction containing normal human or humanized transgenic (Tg) mouse brain homogenates generated PrPSc molecules that unexpectedly exhibited a dominant diglycosylated PrP isoform along with PrP monoglycosylated at residue 181. The efficiency of PrPSc amplification was significantly higher in non-CJDMM than in non-CJDVV human brain homogenate, whereas it was higher in normal TgVV than in TgMM mouse brain homogenate. PrPC from the mixture of normal TgMM and Tg mouse brain expressing PrPV180I mutation (Tg180) but not TgV180I alone was converted into PrPSc by seeding with the VPSPr or fCJDV180I. The RT-QuIC seeding activity of PrPSc from VPSPr and fCJDV180I was significantly lower than that of sCJD. Our results suggest that the formation of glycoform-selective prions may be associated with an unidentified factor in the affected brain and the glycoform-deficiency of PrPSc does not affect the glycoforms of in vitro newly amplified PrPSc.