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Evidence for the role of PrP(C) helix 1 in the hydrophilic seeding of prion aggregates

By M. P. Morrissey and E. I. Shakhnovich


Prions are mammalian proteins (PrPs) with a unique pathogenic property: a nonendogenous isoform PrP(Sc) can catalyze conversion of the endogenous PrP(C) isoform into additional PrP(Sc). In this work, we demonstrate that PrP(C) helix 1 has certain properties (hydrophilicity, charge distribution) that make it unique among all naturally occurring α-helices, and which are indicative of a highly specific model of prion infectivity. The β-nucleation model proposes that PrP(Sc) is an aggregate with a hydrophilic core, consisting of a β-sheet-like arrangement of constituent helix 1 components. It is suggested by using structural arguments, and confirmed by using charmm energy calculations, that aggregate formation from two PrP(C) molecules is highly unfavorable, but the addition of chains to an existing aggregate is favorable. The β-nucleation model is shown to be consistent with the prion species-barrier, as well as with infectivity data. Sequence analysis of all known protein structures indicates that PrP is uniquely suited to β-nucleation, in contrast to the many proteins that readily form less favorable (often nonspecific) hydrophobic aggregates

Topics: Biological Sciences
Publisher: The National Academy of Sciences
Year: 1999
DOI identifier: 10.1073/pnas.96.20.11293
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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