Protease resistance of infectious prions is suppressed by removal of a single atom in the cellular prion protein.
ABSTRACT: Resistance to proteolytic digestion has long been considered a defining trait of prions in tissues of organisms suffering from transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Detection of proteinase K-resistant prion protein (PrPSc) still represents the diagnostic gold standard for prion diseases in humans, sheep and cattle. However, it has become increasingly apparent that the accumulation of PrPSc does not always accompany prion infections: high titers of prion infectivity can be reached also in the absence of protease resistant PrPSc. Here, we describe a structural basis for the phenomenon of protease-sensitive prion infectivity. We studied the effect on proteinase K (PK) resistance of the amino acid substitution Y169F, which removes a single oxygen atom from the ?2-?2 loop of the cellular prion protein (PrPC). When infected with RML or the 263K strain of prions, transgenic mice lacking wild-type (wt) PrPC but expressing MoPrP169F generated prion infectivity at levels comparable to wt mice. The newly generated MoPrP169F prions were biologically indistinguishable from those recovered from prion-infected wt mice, and elicited similar pathologies in vivo. Surprisingly, MoPrP169F prions showed greatly reduced PK resistance and density gradient analyses showed a significant reduction in high-density aggregates. Passage of MoPrP169F prions into mice expressing wt MoPrP led to full recovery of protease resistance, indicating that no strain shift had taken place. We conclude that a subtle structural variation in the ?2-?2 loop of PrPC affects the sensitivity of PrPSc to protease but does not impact prion replication and infectivity. With these findings a specific structural feature of PrPC can be linked to a physicochemical property of the corresponding PrPSc.
Project description:Infectious prions contain a self-propagating, misfolded conformer of the prion protein termed PrPSc. A critical prediction of the protein-only hypothesis is that autocatalytic PrPSc molecules should be infectious. However, some autocatalytic recombinant PrPSc molecules have low or undetectable levels of specific infectivity in bioassays, and the essential determinants of recombinant prion infectivity remain obscure. To identify structural and functional features specifically associated with infectivity, we compared the properties of two autocatalytic recombinant PrP conformers derived from the same original template, which differ by >105-fold in specific infectivity for wild-type mice. Structurally, hydrogen/deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (DXMS) studies revealed that solvent accessibility profiles of infectious and non-infectious autocatalytic recombinant PrP conformers are remarkably similar throughout their protease-resistant cores, except for two domains encompassing residues 91-115 and 144-163. Raman spectroscopy and immunoprecipitation studies confirm that these domains adopt distinct conformations within infectious versus non-infectious autocatalytic recombinant PrP conformers. Functionally, in vitro prion propagation experiments show that the non-infectious conformer is unable to seed mouse PrPC substrates containing a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchor, including native PrPC. Taken together, these results indicate that having a conformation that can be specifically adopted by post-translationally modified PrPC molecules is an essential determinant of biological infectivity for recombinant prions, and suggest that this ability is associated with discrete features of PrPSc structure.
Project description:Prion protein (PrPC) is a protease-sensitive and soluble cell surface glycoprotein expressed in almost all mammalian cell types. PrPSc, a protease-resistant and insoluble form of PrPC, is the causative agent of prion diseases, fatal and transmissible neurogenerative diseases of mammals. Prion infection is initiated via either ingestion or inoculation of PrPSc or when host PrPC stochastically refolds into PrPSc. In either instance, the early events that occur during prion infection remain poorly understood. We have used transgenic mice expressing mouse PrPC tagged with a unique antibody epitope to monitor the response of host PrPC to prion inoculation. Following intracranial inoculation of either prion-infected or uninfected brain homogenate, we show that host PrPC can accumulate both intra-axonally and within the myelin membrane of axons suggesting that it may play a role in axonal loss following brain injury. Moreover, in response to the inoculation host PrPC exhibits an increased insolubility and protease resistance similar to that of PrPSc, even in the absence of infectious prions. Thus, our results raise the possibility that damage to the brain may be one trigger by which PrPC stochastically refolds into pathogenic PrPSc leading to productive prion infection.
Project description:The protein-only hypothesis predicts that infectious mammalian prions are composed solely of PrPSc, a misfolded conformer of the normal prion protein, PrPC. However, protein-only PrPSc preparations lack significant levels of prion infectivity, leading to the alternative hypothesis that cofactor molecules are required to form infectious prions. Here, we show that prions with parental strain properties and full specific infectivity can be restored from protein-only PrPSc in vitro. The restoration reaction is rapid, potent, and requires bank vole PrPC substrate, post-translational modifications, and cofactor molecules. To our knowledge, this represents the first report in which the essential properties of an infectious mammalian prion have been restored from pure PrP without adaptation. These findings provide evidence for a unified hypothesis of prion infectivity in which the global structure of protein-only PrPSc accurately stores latent infectious and strain information, but cofactor molecules control a reversible switch that unmasks biological infectivity.
Project description:Prion diseases are neurodegenerative disorders associated in most cases with the accumulation in the central nervous system of PrPSc (conformationally altered isoform of cellular prion protein (PrPC); Sc for scrapie), a partially protease-resistant isoform of the PrPC. PrPSc is thought to be the causative agent of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. The mechanisms involved in the intercellular transfer of PrPSc are still enigmatic. Recently, small cellular vesicles of endosomal origin called exosomes have been proposed to contribute to the spread of prions in cell culture models. Retroviruses such as murine leukemia virus (MuLV) or human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) have been shown to assemble and bud into detergent-resistant microdomains and into intracellular compartments such as late endosomes/multivesicular bodies. Here we report that moloney murine leukemia virus (MoMuLV) infection strongly enhances the release of scrapie infectivity in the supernatant of coinfected cells. Under these conditions, we found that PrPC, PrPSc and scrapie infectivity are recruited by both MuLV virions and exosomes. We propose that retroviruses can be important cofactors involved in the spread of the pathological prion agent.
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:Prions propagate by a template driven process, inducing the normal cellular isoform (PrPC) to adopt the prion (PrPSc) conformation. In PrPC, the positions of lysines are highly conserved and strongly influence prion propagation. In this study, covalent modification was used to quantitate the role of lysines in the PrPSc template that drives prion replication. The ?-amino group of lysines in the PrPSc (hamster-adapted scrapie Sc237) template was acetylated by either acetic anhydride (Ac2O) or the N-hydroxysuccinimide ester of acetic acid (Ac-NHS). The extent of lysine acetylation in PrPSc was quantitated by mass spectrometry or Western blot-based analysis. Identical samples were bioassayed to quantitate the loss of infectivity associated with lysine acetylation. The reduction of infectivity at the highest reagent concentration was approximately 90% (?10-fold). Ten of the eleven prion lysines were acetylated to a greater extent (25-400-fold) than the observed loss of infectivity. Only one lysine, at position 220 (K220), had a reactivity that is consistent with the loss of infectivity. Although lysines are highly conserved and play a crucial role in converting PrPC into the PrPSc conformation, once that conformation is adopted, the lysines present in the PrPSc template play only a limited role in prion replication. In principle, this approach could be used to clarify the role of other amino acids in the replication of prions and other prion-like protein misfolding diseases.
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:Prions induce a fatal neurodegenerative disease in infected host brain based on the refolding and aggregation of the host-encoded prion protein PrPC into PrPSc. Structurally distinct PrPSc conformers can give rise to multiple prion strains. Constrained interactions between PrPC and different PrPSc strains can in turn lead to certain PrPSc (sub)populations being selected for cross-species transmission, or even produce mutation-like events. By contrast, prion strains are generally conserved when transmitted within the same species, or to transgenic mice expressing homologous PrPC. Here, we compare the strain properties of a representative sheep scrapie isolate transmitted to a panel of transgenic mouse lines expressing varying levels of homologous PrPC. While breeding true in mice expressing PrPC at near physiological levels, scrapie prions evolve consistently towards different strain components in mice beyond a certain threshold of PrPC overexpression. Our results support the view that PrPC gene dosage can influence prion evolution on homotypic transmission.
Project description:Prion diseases are a group of fatal neurodegenerative disorders caused by prions, which consist mainly of the abnormally folded isoform of prion protein, PrPSc. A pivotal pathogenic event in prion disease is progressive accumulation of prions, or PrPSc, in brains through constitutive conformational conversion of the cellular prion protein, PrPC, into PrPSc. However, the cellular mechanism by which PrPSc is progressively accumulated in prion-infected neurons remains unknown. Here, we show that PrPSc is progressively accumulated in prion-infected cells through degradation of the VPS10P sorting receptor sortilin. We first show that sortilin interacts with PrPC and PrPSc and sorts them to lysosomes for degradation. Consistently, sortilin-knockdown increased PrPSc accumulation in prion-infected cells. In contrast, overexpression of sortilin reduced PrPSc accumulation in prion-infected cells. These results indicate that sortilin negatively regulates PrPSc accumulation in prion-infected cells. The negative role of sortilin in PrPSc accumulation was further confirmed in sortilin-knockout mice infected with prions. The infected mice had accelerated prion disease with early accumulation of PrPSc in their brains. Interestingly, sortilin was reduced in prion-infected cells and mouse brains. Treatment of prion-infected cells with lysosomal inhibitors, but not proteasomal inhibitors, increased the levels of sortilin. Moreover, sortilin was reduced following PrPSc becoming detectable in cells after infection with prions. These results indicate that PrPSc accumulation stimulates sortilin degradation in lysosomes. Taken together, these results show that PrPSc accumulation of itself could impair the sortilin-mediated sorting of PrPC and PrPSc to lysosomes for degradation by stimulating lysosomal degradation of sortilin, eventually leading to progressive accumulation of PrPSc in prion-infected cells.
Project description:Prions are transmissible agents causing lethal neurodegenerative diseases that are composed of aggregates of misfolded cellular prion protein (PrPSc). Despite non-fibrillar oligomers having been proposed as the most infectious prion particles, prions purified from diseased brains usually consist of large and fibrillar PrPSc aggregates, whose protease-resistant core (PrPres) encompasses the whole C-terminus of PrP. In contrast, PrPSc from Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker disease associated with alanine to valine substitution at position 117 (GSS-A117V) is characterized by a small protease-resistant core, which is devoid of the C-terminus. We thus aimed to investigate the role of this unusual PrPSc in terms of infectivity, strain characteristics, and structural features. We found, by titration in bank voles, that the infectivity of GSS-A117V is extremely high (109.3 ID50 U/g) and is resistant to treatment with proteinase K (109.0 ID50 U/g). We then purified the proteinase K-resistant GSS-A117V prions and determined the amount of infectivity and PrPres in the different fractions, alongside the morphological characteristics of purified PrPres aggregates by electron microscopy. Purified pellet fractions from GSS-A117V contained the expected N- and C-terminally cleaved 7 kDa PrPres, although the yield of PrPres was low. We found that this low yield depended on the low density/small size of GSS-A117V PrPres, as it was mainly retained in the last supernatant fraction. All fractions were highly infectious, thus confirming the infectious nature of the 7 kDa PrPres, with infectivity levels that directly correlated with the PrPres amount detected. Finally, electron microscopy analysis of these fractions showed no presence of amyloid fibrils, but only very small and indistinct, non-fibrillar PrPresparticles were detected and confirmed to contain PrP via immunogold labelling. Our study demonstrates that purified aggregates of 7 kDa PrPres, spanning residues ?90-150, are highly infectious oligomers that encode the biochemical and biological strain features of the original sample. Overall, the autocatalytic behaviour of the prion oligomers reveals their role in the propagation of neurodegeneration in patients with Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker disease and implies that the C-terminus of PrPSc is dispensable for infectivity and strain features for this prion strain, uncovering the central PrP domain as the minimal molecular component able to encode infectious prions. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that non-fibrillar prion particles are highly efficient propagators of disease and provide new molecular and morphological constraints on the structure of infectious prions.