Dissociation of infectivity from seeding ability in prions with alternate docking mechanism.
ABSTRACT: Previous studies identified two mammalian prion protein (PrP) polybasic domains that bind the disease-associated conformer PrP(Sc), suggesting that these domains of cellular prion protein (PrP(C)) serve as docking sites for PrP(Sc) during prion propagation. To examine the role of polybasic domains in the context of full-length PrP(C), we used prion proteins lacking one or both polybasic domains expressed from Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells as substrates in serial protein misfolding cyclic amplification (sPMCA) reactions. After ?5 rounds of sPMCA, PrP(Sc) molecules lacking the central polybasic domain (?C) were formed. Surprisingly, in contrast to wild-type prions, ?C-PrP(Sc) prions could bind to and induce quantitative conversion of all the polybasic domain mutant substrates into PrP(Sc) molecules. Remarkably, ?C-PrP(Sc) and other polybasic domain PrP(Sc) molecules displayed diminished or absent biological infectivity relative to wild-type PrP(Sc), despite their ability to seed sPMCA reactions of normal mouse brain homogenate. Thus, ?C-PrP(Sc) prions interact with PrP(C) molecules through a novel interaction mechanism, yielding an expanded substrate range and highly efficient PrP(Sc) propagation. Furthermore, polybasic domain deficient PrP(Sc) molecules provide the first example of dissociation between normal brain homogenate sPMCA seeding ability from biological prion infectivity. These results suggest that the propagation of PrP(Sc) molecules may not depend on a single stereotypic mechanism, but that normal PrP(C)/PrP(Sc) interaction through polybasic domains may be required to generate prion infectivity.
Project description:Prions containing misfolded prion protein (PrP(Sc)) can be formed with cofactor molecules using the technique of serial protein misfolding cyclic amplification. However, it remains unknown whether cofactors materially participate in maintaining prion conformation and infectious properties. Here we show that withdrawal of cofactor molecules during serial propagation of purified recombinant prions caused adaptation of PrP(Sc) structure accompanied by a reduction in specific infectivity of >10(5)-fold, to undetectable levels, despite the ability of adapted "protein-only" PrP(Sc) molecules to self-propagate in vitro. We also report that changing only the cofactor component of a minimal reaction substrate mixture during serial propagation induced major changes in the strain properties of an infectious recombinant prion. Moreover, propagation with only one functional cofactor (phosphatidylethanolamine) induced the conversion of three distinct strains into a single strain with unique infectious properties and PrP(Sc) structure. Taken together, these results indicate that cofactor molecules can regulate the defining features of mammalian prions: PrP(Sc) conformation, infectivity, and strain properties. These findings suggest that cofactor molecules likely are integral components of infectious prions.
Project description:Single-stranded polyanions ?40 bases in length facilitate the formation of hamster scrapie prions in vitro, and polyanions co-localize with PrP(Sc) aggregates in vivo. To test the hypothesis that intact polyanionic molecules might serve as a structural backbone essential for maintaining the infectious conformation(s) of PrP(Sc), we produced synthetic prions using a photocleavable, 100-base oligonucleotide (PC-oligo). In serial Protein Misfolding Cyclic Amplification (sPMCA) reactions using purified PrP(C) substrate, PC-oligo was incorporated into physical complexes with PrP(Sc) molecules that were resistant to benzonase digestion. Exposure of these nuclease-resistant prion complexes to long wave ultraviolet light (315 nm) induced degradation of PC-oligo into 5 base fragments. Light-induced photolysis of incorporated PC-oligo did not alter the infectivity of in vitro-generated prions, as determined by bioassay in hamsters and brain homogenate sPMCA assays. Neuropathological analysis also revealed no significant differences in the neurotropism of prions containing intact versus degraded PC-oligo. These results show that polyanions >5 bases in length are not required for maintaining the infectious properties of in vitro-generated scrapie prions, and indicate that such properties are maintained either by short polyanion remnants, other co-purified cofactors, or by PrP(Sc) molecules alone.
Project description:Prions are lethal infectious agents thought to consist of multi-chain forms (PrP(Sc)) of misfolded cellular prion protein (PrP(C)). Prion propagation proceeds in two distinct mechanistic phases: an exponential phase 1, which rapidly reaches a fixed level of infectivity irrespective of PrP(C) expression level, and a plateau (phase 2), which continues until clinical onset with duration inversely proportional to PrP(C) expression level. We hypothesized that neurotoxicity relates to distinct neurotoxic species produced following a pathway switch when prion levels saturate. Here we show a linear increase of proteinase K-sensitive PrP isoforms distinct from classical PrP(Sc) at a rate proportional to PrP(C) concentration, commencing at the phase transition and rising until clinical onset. The unaltered level of total PrP during phase 1, when prion infectivity increases a million-fold, indicates that prions comprise a small minority of total PrP. This is consistent with PrP(C) concentration not being rate limiting to exponential prion propagation and neurotoxicity relating to critical concentrations of alternate PrP isoforms whose production is PrP(C) concentration dependent.
Project description:The cofactor preferences for in vitro propagation of the protease-resistant isoforms of the prion protein (PrP(Sc)) from various rodent species were investigated using the serial protein misfolding cyclic amplification (sPMCA) technique. Whereas RNA molecules facilitate hamster PrP(Sc) propagation, RNA and several other polyanions do not promote the propagation of mouse and vole PrP(Sc) molecules. Pretreatment of crude Prnp(0/0) (PrP knockout) brain homogenate with RNase A or micrococcal nuclease inhibited hamster but not mouse PrP(Sc) propagation in a reconstituted system. Mouse PrP(Sc) propagation could be reconstituted by mixing PrP(C) substrate with homogenates prepared from either brain or liver, but not from several other tissues that were tested. These results reveal species-specific differences in cofactor utilization for PrP(Sc) propagation in vitro and also demonstrate the existence of an endogenous cofactor present in brain tissue not composed of nucleic acids.
Project description:According to the protein-only hypothesis of prion propagation, prions are composed principally of PrP(Sc), an abnormal conformational isoform of the prion protein, which, like its normal cellular precursor (PrP(C)), has a GPI (glycosylphosphatidylinositol) anchor at the C-terminus. To date, elucidating the role of this anchor on the infectivity of prion preparations has not been possible because of the resistance of PrP(Sc) to the activity of PI-PLC (phosphoinositide-specific phospholipase C), an enzyme which removes the GPI moiety from PrP(C). Removal of the GPI anchor from PrP(Sc) requires denaturation before treatment with PI-PLC, a process that also abolishes infectivity. To circumvent this problem, we have removed the GPI anchor from PrP(Sc) in RML (Rocky Mountain Laboratory)-prion-infected murine brain homogenate using the aspartic endoprotease cathepsin D. This enzyme eliminates a short sequence at the C-terminal end of PrP to which the GPI anchor is attached. We found that this modification has no effect (i) on an in vitro amplification model of PrP(Sc), (ii) on the prion titre as determined by a highly sensitive N2a-cell based bioassay, or (iii) in a mouse bioassay. These results show that the GPI anchor has little or no role in either the propagation of PrP(Sc) or on prion infectivity.
Project description:Infectious prions containing the pathogenic conformer of the mammalian prion protein (PrP(Sc)) can be produced de novo from a mixture of the normal conformer (PrP(C)) with RNA and lipid molecules. Recent reconstitution studies indicate that nucleic acids are not required for the propagation of mouse prions in vitro, suggesting the existence of an alternative prion propagation cofactor in brain tissue. However, the identity and functional properties of this unique cofactor are unknown. Here, we show by purification and reconstitution that the molecule responsible for the nuclease-resistant cofactor activity in brain is endogenous phosphatidylethanolamine (PE). Synthetic PE alone facilitates conversion of purified recombinant (rec)PrP substrate into infectious recPrP(Sc) molecules. Other phospholipids, including phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylinositol, and phosphatidylglycerol, were unable to facilitate recPrP(Sc) formation in the absence of RNA. PE facilitated the propagation of PrP(Sc) molecules derived from all four different animal species tested including mouse, suggesting that unlike RNA, PE is a promiscuous cofactor for PrP(Sc) formation in vitro. Phospholipase treatment abolished the ability of brain homogenate to reconstitute the propagation of both mouse and hamster PrP(Sc) molecules. Our results identify a single endogenous cofactor able to facilitate the formation of prions from multiple species in the absence of nucleic acids or other polyanions.
Project description:Prion diseases are caused by misfolding of the cellular protein PrP(C) to an infectious conformer, PrP(Sc). Intercellular PrP(Sc) transfer propagates conversion and allows infectivity to move from the periphery to the brain. However, how prions spread between cells of the central nervous system is unclear. Astrocytes are specialized non-neuronal cells within the brain that have a number of functions indispensable for brain homeostasis. Interestingly, they are one of the earliest sites of prion accumulation in the brain. A fundamental question arising from this observation is whether these cells are involved in intercellular prion transfer and thereby disease propagation. Using co-culture systems between primary infected astrocytes and granule neurons or neuronal cell lines, we provide direct evidence that prion-infected astrocytes can disseminate prion to neurons. Though astrocytes are capable of secreting PrP, this is an inefficient method of transferring prion infectivity. Efficient transfer required co-culturing and direct cell contact. Astrocytes form numerous intercellular connections including tunneling nanotubes, containing PrP(Sc), often colocalized with endolysosomal vesicles, which may constitute the major mechanism of transfer. Because of their role in intercellular transfer of prions astrocytes may influence progression of the disease.
Project description:The conformational change of a host protein, PrP(C), into a disease-associated isoform, PrP(Sc), appears to play a critical role in the pathogenesis of prion diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and scrapie. However, the fundamental mechanism by which infectious prions are produced in neurons remains unknown. To investigate the mechanism of prion formation biochemically, we conducted a series of experiments using the protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) technique with a preparation containing only native PrP(C) and copurified lipid molecules. These experiments showed that successful PMCA propagation of PrP(Sc) molecules in a purified system requires accessory polyanion molecules. In addition, we found that PrP(Sc) molecules could be formed de novo from these defined components in the absence of preexisting prions. Inoculation of samples containing either prion-seeded or spontaneously generated PrP(Sc) molecules into hamsters caused scrapie, which was transmissible on second passage. These results show that prions able to infect wild-type hamsters can be formed from a minimal set of components including native PrP(C) molecules, copurified lipid molecules, and a synthetic polyanion.
Project description:The prion hypothesis is strongly supported by the fact that prion infectivity and the pathogenic conformer of prion protein (PrP) are simultaneously propagated in vitro by the serial protein misfolding cyclic amplification (sPMCA). However, due to sPMCA's enormous amplification power, whether an infectious prion can be formed de novo with bacterially expressed recombinant PrP (rPrP) remains to be satisfactorily resolved. To address this question, we performed unseeded sPMCA with rPrP in a laboratory that has never been exposed to any native prions. Two types of proteinase K (PK)-resistant and self-perpetuating recombinant PrP conformers (rPrP-res) with PK-resistant cores of 17 or 14 kDa were generated. A bioassay revealed that rPrP-res(17kDa) was highly infectious, causing prion disease in wild-type mice with an average survival time of about 172 d. In contrast, rPrP-res(14kDa) completely failed to induce any disease. Our findings reveal that sPMCA is sufficient to initiate various self-perpetuating PK-resistant rPrP conformers, but not all of them possess in vivo infectivity. Moreover, generating an infectious prion in a prion-free environment establishes that an infectious prion can be formed de novo with bacterially expressed rPrP.
Project description:Disease-related prion protein (PrP(Sc)) is readily detectable in lymphoreticular tissues in variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), but not in other forms of human prion disease. This distinctive pathogenesis, with the unknown population prevalence of asymptomatic vCJD infection, has led to significant concerns that secondary transmission of vCJD prions will occur through a wide range of surgical procedures. To date PrP(Sc):prion infectivity ratios have not been determined in vCJD, and it is unknown whether vCJD prions are similar to experimental rodent prions, where PrP(Sc) concentration typically reflects infectious prion titre.To investigate prion infectivity in vCJD tissue containing barely detectable levels of PrP(Sc).Transgenic mice expressing only human PrP (Tg(HuPrP129M(+/+)Prnp(o/o))-35 and Tg(HuPrP129M(+/+)Prnp(o/o))-45 mice) were inoculated with brain or rectal tissue from a previously characterised patient with vCJD. These tissues contain the maximum and minimum levels of detectable PrP(Sc) that have been observed in vCJD.Efficient transmission of prion infection was observed in transgenic mice inoculated with vCJD rectal tissue containing PrP(Sc) at a concentration of 10(4.7)-fold lower than that in vCJD brain.These data confirm the potential risks for secondary transmission of vCJD prions via gastrointestinal procedures and support the use of PrP(Sc) as a quantitative marker of prion infectivity in vCJD tissues.