Prions are self-perpetuating, infectious, aggregated proteins that are associated with several neurodegenerative diseases in mammals and heritable traits in yeast. Sup35p, the protein determinant of the yeast prion [PSI+], has a conserved C terminal domain that performs the Sup35p function and a prion domain that is highly divergent. Prions formed by chimeras of the prion domain of various species fused to the C domain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae exhibit a 'species barrier', a phenomenon first observed in mammals, and often fail to transmit the prion state to chimeras with prion domains of other species.
We focus on the chimera containing the prion domain of Pichia methanolica and examine how tight the 'species barrier' is between the chimera and S. cerevisiae. Although either of two Q/N-rich prions, [PSI+] or [PIN+], enhances the formation of the chimeric prion, [CHI+PM], neither a non-Q/N-rich prion nor a non-prion Q-rich aggregate promotes the formation of [CHI+PM]. [CHI+PM] has many features characteristic of yeast prions: aggregation, cytoplasmic transmission and a two-level protein structure. [CHI+PM] formed in the presence of [PSI+] can propagate independently of [PSI+] and forms at least two different variants of the prion, suggesting the generation and not transmission of new prion seeds.
Although the sequence similarity between the S. cerevisiae Q/N-rich prion determinants and the P. methanolica prion domain is low, we find that the chimera containing the prion domain of P. methanolica can occasionally be cross-seeded by [PSI+] to mimic crossing the species barrier, to form the [CHI+PM] prion. Our data suggests that crossing the barrier occurs by a de novo formation of the foreign chimeric prion. Thus, the species barrier appears to be crossed by a heterologous seeding mechanism, wherein the infected prion protein uses the pre-existing seed as an inefficient template.
A remarkable feature of prion biology is that the same prion protein can misfold into more than one infectious conformation and these conformations, in turn, lead to distinct heritable prion strains with different phenotypes. The yeast prion [PSI+] is a powerful system for studying how changes in the strain conformation affect cross-species transmission. We have previously established that a chimera of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae (SC) and Candida albicans (CA) Sup35 prion domains can cross the SC/CA species barrier in a strain-dependent manner. In vitro, the conversion of the monomeric chimera to the prion (amyloid) form can be seeded by either SC or CA Sup35 amyloid fibers, resulting in two strains: Chim[SC] and Chim[CA]. These strains have a “molecular memory” of their originating species in that Chim[SC] preferentially seeds conversion of SC Sup35, and vice versa. To investigate how this species specificity is conformationally encoded, we used amide exchange and limited proteolysis to probe the structures of these two strains. We found that the amyloid cores of Chim[SC] and Chim[CA] are predominantly confined to the SC- and CA-derived residues respectively. In addition, the chimera is able to propagate the Chim[CA] conformation even when the SC residues that comprise the Chim[SC] core were deleted. Thus the two strains have non-overlapping and modular amyloid cores that determine whether SC or CA residues are presented on the growing face of the prion seed. These observations establish how conformations determine the specificity of prion transmission and demonstrate a remarkable plasticity to amyloid misfolding.
[PSI+]; prion strain; prion species barrier; protein misfolding; hydrogen/deuterium exchange
Self-perpetuating amyloid-based protein isoforms (prions) transmit neurodegenerative diseases in mammals and phenotypic traits in yeast. Although mechanisms that control species-specificity of prion transmission are poorly understood, studies of closely related orthologs of yeast prion protein Sup35 demonstrate that cross-species prion transmission is modulated by both genetic (specific sequence elements) and epigenetic (prion variants, or “strains”) factors. Depending on the prion variant, the species barrier could be controlled at the level of either heterologous coaggregation or conversion of the aggregate-associated heterologous protein into a prion polymer. Sequence divergence influences cross-species transmission of different prion variants in opposing ways. The ability of a heterologous prion domain to either faithfully reproduce or irreversibly switch the variant-specific prion patterns depends on both sequence divergence and the prion variant. Sequence variations within different modules of prion domains contribute to transmission barriers in different cross-species combinations. Individual amino acid substitutions within short amyloidogenic stretches drastically alter patterns of cross-species prion conversion, implicating these stretches as major determinants of species specificity.
amyloid; Saccharomyces bayanus; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; Saccharomyces paradoxus; yeast
[PSI+] is an amyloid-based prion of Sup35p, a subunit of the translation termination factor. Prion “strains” or “variants” are amyloids with different conformations of a single protein sequence, conferring different phenotypes, but each relatively faithfully propagated. Wild Saccharomyces cerevisiae isolates have SUP35 alleles that fall into three groups, called reference, Δ19, and E9, with limited transmissibility of [PSI+] between cells expressing these different polymorphs. Here we show that prion transmission pattern between different Sup35 polymorphs is prion variant-dependent. Passage of one prion variant from one Sup35 polymorph to another need not change the prion variant. Surprisingly, simple mitotic growth of a [PSI+] strain results in a spectrum of variant transmission properties among the progeny clones. Even cells that have grown for >150 generations continue to vary in transmission properties, suggesting that simple variant segregation is insufficient to explain the results. Rather, there appears to be continuous generation of a cloud of prion variants, with one or another becoming stochastically dominant, only to be succeeded by a different mixture. We find that among the rare wild isolates containing [PSI+], all indistinguishably “weak” [PSI+], are several different variants based on their transmission efficiencies to other Sup35 alleles. Most show some limitation of transmission, indicating that the evolved wild Sup35 alleles are effective in limiting the spread of [PSI+]. Notably, a “strong [PSI+]” can have any of several different transmission efficiency patterns, showing that “strong” versus “weak” is insufficient to indicate prion variant uniformity.
The [PSI+] prion (infectious protein) of yeast is a self-propagating amyloid (filamentous protein polymer) of the Sup35 protein, a subunit of the translation termination factor. A single protein can form many biologically distinct prions, called prion variants. Wild yeast strains have three groups of Sup35 sequences (polymorphs), which partially block transmission of the [PSI+] prion from cell to cell. We find that [PSI+] variants (including the rare [PSI+] from wild yeasts) show different transmission patterns from one Sup35 sequence to another. Moreover, we find segregation of different prion variants on mitotic growth and evidence for generation of new variants with growth under non-selective conditions. This data supports the “prion cloud” model, that prions are not uniform structures but have an array of related self-propagating amyloid structures.
Amyloid protein aggregation is involved in serious neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and transmissible encephalopathies. The concept of an infectious protein (prion) being the scrapie agent was successfully validated for several yeast and fungi proteins. Ure2, Sup35 and Rnq1 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and HET-s in Podospora anserina have been genetically and biochemically identified as prion proteins. Studies on these proteins have revealed critical information on the mechanisms of prions appearance and propagation. The prion phenotype correlates with the aggregation state of these particular proteins. In vitro, the recombinant prion proteins form amyloid fibers characterized by rich β sheet content. In a previous work on the HET-s prion protein Podospora, we demonstrated the infectivity of HET-s recombinant amyloid aggregates. More recently, the structural analysis of the HET-s prion domain associated with in vivo mutagenesis allowed us to propose a model for the infectious fold of the HET-s prion domain. Further investigations to complete this model are discussed in this review, as are relevant questions about the [Het-s] system of Podospora anserina.
prion; HET-s; Podospora; amyloid; infectious; β sheet; mutagenesis; fold; propagation
The [PSI+] prion is the aggregated self-propagating form of the Sup35 protein from the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Aggregates of Sup35 in [PSI+] cells exist in different heritable conformations, called “variants,” and they are composed of detergent-resistant Sup35 polymers, which may be closely associated with themselves, other proteins, or both. Here, we report that disassembly of the aggregates into individual Sup35 polymers and non-Sup35 components increases their infectivity while retaining their variant specificity, showing that variant-specific [PSI+] infection can be transmitted by Sup35 polymers alone. Morphological analysis revealed that Sup35 isolated from [PSI+] yeast has the appearance of short barrels, and bundles, which seem to be composed of barrels. We show that the major components of two different variants of [PSI+] are interacting infectious Sup35 polymers and Ssa1/2. Using a candidate approach, we detected Hsp104, Ssb1/2, Sis1, Sse1, Ydj1, and Sla2 among minor components of the aggregates. We demonstrate that Ssa1/2 efficiently binds to the prion domain of Sup35 in [PSI+] cells, but that it interacts poorly with the nonaggregated Sup35 found in [psi−] cells. Hsp104, Sis1, and Sse1 interact preferentially with the prion versus nonprion form of Sup35, whereas Sla2 and Ssb1/2 interact with both forms of Sup35 with similar efficiency.
Prion proteins misfold and aggregate into multiple infectious strain variants that possess unique abilities to overcome prion species barriers, yet the structural basis for the species-specific infectivities of prion strains is poorly understood. Therefore, we have investigated the site-specific structural properties of a promiscuous chimeric form of the yeast prion Sup35 from Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida albicans. The Sup35 chimera forms two strain variants, each of which selectively infect one species but not the other. Importantly, the N-terminal and middle domains of the Sup35 chimera (collectively referred to as Sup35NM) contain two prion recognition elements (one from each species) that regulate the nucleation of each strain. Mutations in either prion recognition element significantly bias nucleation of one strain conformation relative to the other. Here we have investigated the folding of each prion recognition element for the serine-to-arginine mutant at residue 17 of the Sup35NM chimera known to promote nucleation of C. albicans strain conformation. Using cysteine-specific labeling analysis, we find that residues in the C. albicans prion recognition element are solvent-shielded, while those outside the recognition sequence (including most of those in the S. cerevisiae recognition element) are solvent-exposed. Moreover, we find that proline mutations in the C. albicans recognition sequence disrupt the prion templating activity of this strain conformation. Our structural findings reveal that differential folding of complementary and non-complementary prion recognition elements within the prion amyloid core of the Sup35NM chimera is the structural basis for its species-specific templating activity.
Sup35; amyloid; fibril; PrP; transmission barrier; species barrier
The SUP45 and SUP35 genes of Saccharomyces cerevisiae encode polypeptide chain release factors eRF1 and eRF3, respectively. It has been suggested that the Sup35 protein (Sup35p) is subject to a heritable conformational switch, similar to mammalian prions, thus giving rise to the non-Mendelian [PSI+] nonsense suppressor determinant. In a [PSI+] state, Sup35p forms high-molecular-weight aggregates which may inhibit Sup35p activity, leading to the [PSI+] phenotype. Sup35p is composed of the N-terminal domain (N) required for [PSI+] maintenance, the presumably nonfunctional middle region (M), and the C-terminal domain (C) essential for translation termination. In this study, we observed that the N domain, alone or as a part of larger fragments, can form aggregates in [PSI+] cells. Two sites for Sup45p binding were found within Sup35p: one is formed by the N and M domains, and the other is located within the C domain. Similarly to Sup35p, in [PSI+] cells Sup45p was found in aggregates. The aggregation of Sup45p is caused by its binding to Sup35p and was not observed when the aggregated Sup35p fragments did not contain sites for Sup45p binding. The incorporation of Sup45p into the aggregates should inhibit its activity. The N domain of Sup35p, responsible for its aggregation in [PSI+] cells, may thus act as a repressor of another polypeptide chain release factor, Sup45p. This phenomenon represents a novel mechanism of regulation of gene expression at the posttranslational level.
Protein misfolding underlies many neurodegenerative diseases, including the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (prion diseases). While cells typically recognize and process misfolded proteins, prion proteins evade protective measures by forming stable, self-replicating aggregates. However, co-expression of dominant-negative prion mutants can overcome aggregate accumulation and disease progression through currently unknown pathways. Here, we determine the mechanisms by which two mutants of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae Sup35 protein cure the [PSI+] prion. We show that both mutants incorporate into wildtype aggregates and alter their physical properties in different ways, diminishing either their assembly rate or their thermodynamic stability. While wildtype aggregates are recalcitrant to cellular intervention, mixed aggregates are disassembled by the molecular chaperone Hsp104. Thus, rather than simply blocking misfolding, dominant-negative prion mutants target multiple events in aggregate biogenesis to enhance their susceptibility to endogenous quality control pathways.
The Saccharomyces cerevisiae [PSI+] prion is a misfolded form of Sup35p that propagates as self-replicating cytoplasmic aggregates. Replication is believed to occur through breakage of transmissible [PSI+] prion particles, or seeds, into more numerous pieces. In [PSI+] cells, large Sup35p aggregates are formed by coalescence of smaller sodium dodecyl sulfate-insoluble polymers. It is uncertain if polymers or higher-order aggregates or both act as prion seeds. A mutant Hsp70 chaperone, Ssa1-21p, reduces the number of transmissible [PSI+] seeds per cell by 10-fold but the overall amount of aggregated Sup35p by only two- to threefold. This discrepancy could be explained if, in SSA1-21 cells, [PSI+] seeds are larger or more of the aggregated Sup35p does not function as a seed. To visualize differences in aggregate size, we constructed a Sup35-green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusion (NGMC) that has normal Sup35p function and can propagate like [PSI+]. Unlike GFP fusions lacking Sup35p's essential C-terminal domain, NGMC did not form fluorescent foci in log-phase [PSI+] cells. However, using fluorescence recovery after photobleaching and size fractionation techniques, we find evidence that NGMC is aggregated in these cells. Furthermore, the aggregates were larger in SSA1-21 cells, but the size of NGMC polymers was unchanged. Possibly, NGMC aggregates are bigger in SSA1-21 cells because they contain more polymers. Our data suggest that Ssa1-21p interferes with disruption of large Sup35p aggregates, which lack or have limited capacity to function as seed, into polymers that function more efficiently as [PSI+] seeds.
Prions (infectious proteins) analogous to the scrapie agent have been identified in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Podospora anserina based on their special genetic characteristics. Each is a protein acting as a gene, much like nucleic acids have been shown to act as enzymes. The [URE3], [PSI+], [PIN+] and [Het-s] prions are self-propagating amyloids of Ure2p, Sup35p, Rnq1p and the HET-s protein, respectively. The [β] and [C] prions are enzymes whose precursor activation requires their own active form. [URE3] and [PSI+] are clearly diseases, while [Het-s] and [β] carry out normal cell functions. Surprisingly, the prion domains of Ure2p and Sup35p can be randomized without loss of ability to become a prion. Thus amino acid content and not sequence determine these prions. Shuffleability also suggests amyloids with a parallel in-register β-sheet structure.
Ure2; Sup35; Rnq1; HETs; PrP; prion; amyloid
Genetic evidence showed two non-Mendelian genetic elements of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, called [URE3] and [PSI], to be prions of Ure2p and Sup35p, respectively. [URE3] makes cells derepressed for nitrogen catabolism, while [PSI] elevates the efficiency of weak suppressor tRNAs. The same approach led to identification of the non-Mendelian element [Het-s] of the filamentous fungus Podospora anserina, as a prion of the het-s protein. The prion form of the het-s protein is required for heterokaryon incompatibility, a normal fungal function, suggesting that other normal cellular functions may be controlled by prions. [URE3] and [PSI] involve a self-propagating aggregation of Ure2p and Sup35p, respectively. In vitro, Ure2p and Sup35p form amyloid, a filamentous protein structure, high in β-sheet with a characteristic green birefringent staining by the dye Congo Red. Amyloid deposits are a cardinal feature of Alzheimer’s disease, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, and many other diseases. The prion domain of Ure2p consists of Asn-rich residues 1 to 80, but two nonoverlapping fragments of the molecule can, when overproduced, induce the de nova appearance of [URE3]. The prion domain of Sup35 consists of residues 1 to 114, also rich in Asn and Gln residues. While runs of Asn and Gln are important for [URE3] and [PSI], no such structures are found in PrP or the Het-s protein. Either elevated or depressed levels of the chaperone Hsp104 interfere with propagation of [PSI]. Both [URE3] and [PSI] are cured by growth of cells in millimolar guanidine HCl. [URE3] is also cured by overexpression of fragments of Ure2p or fusion proteins including parts of Ure2p.
Prions are infectious, aggregated proteins that cause diseases in mammals but are not normally toxic in fungi. Excess Sup35p, an essential yeast protein that can exist as the [PSI+] prion, inhibits growth of [PSI+] but not [psi−] cells. This toxicity is rescued by expressing the Sup35Cp domain of Sup35p, which is sufficient for cell viability but not prion propagation. We now show that rescue requires Sup35Cp levels to be proportional to Sup35p overexpression. Overexpression of Sup35p appeared to cause pre-existing [PSI+] aggregates to coalesce into larger aggregates, but these were not toxic per se because they formed even when Sup35Cp rescued growth. Overexpression of Sup45p, but not other tested essential Sup35p binding partners caused rescue. Sup45-GFPp formed puncta that co-localized with large [PSI+] Sup35-RFPp aggregates in cells overexpressing Sup35p, and the frequency of the Sup45-GFPp puncta was reduced by rescuing levels of Sup35Cp. In contrast, [PSI+] toxicity caused by a high excess of the Sup35p prion domain (Sup35NMp) was rescued by a single copy of Sup35Cp, was not rescued by Sup45p overexpression and was not associated with the appearance of Sup45-GFPp puncta. This suggests [PSI+] toxicity caused by excess Sup35p verses Sup35NMp is respectively through sequestration/inactivation of Sup45p verses Sup35p.
[PSI+], the prion form of the yeast Sup35 protein, results from the structural conversion of Sup35 from a soluble form into an infectious amyloid form. The infectivity of prions is thought to result from chaperone-dependent fiber cleavage that breaks large prion fibers into smaller, inheritable propagons. Like the mammalian prion protein PrP, Sup35 contains an oligopeptide repeat domain. Deletion analysis indicates that the oligopeptide repeat domain is critical for [PSI+] propagation, while a distinct region of the prion domain is responsible for prion nucleation. The PrP oligopeptide repeat domain can substitute for the Sup35 oligopeptide repeat domain in supporting [PSI+] propagation, suggesting a common role for repeats in supporting prion maintenance. However, randomizing the order of the amino acids in the Sup35 prion domain does not block prion formation or propagation, suggesting that amino acid composition is the primary determinant of Sup35's prion propensity. Thus, it is unclear what role the oligopeptide repeats play in [PSI+] propagation: the repeats could simply act as a non-specific spacer separating the prion nucleation domain from the rest of the protein; the repeats could contain specific compositional elements that promote prion propagation; or the repeats, while not essential for prion propagation, might explain some unique features of [PSI+]. Here, we test these three hypotheses and show that the ability of the Sup35 and PrP repeats to support [PSI+] propagation stems from their amino acid composition, not their primary sequences. Furthermore, we demonstrate that compositional requirements for the repeat domain are distinct from those of the nucleation domain, indicating that prion nucleation and propagation are driven by distinct compositional features.
Self-perpetuating protein aggregates transmit prion diseases in mammals and heritable traits in yeast. De novo prion formation can be induced by transient overproduction of the corresponding prion-forming protein or its prion domain. Here, we demonstrate that the yeast prion protein Sup35 interacts with various proteins of the actin cortical cytoskeleton that are involved in endocytosis. Sup35-derived aggregates, generated in the process of prion induction, are associated with the components of the endocytic/vacuolar pathway. Mutational alterations of the cortical actin cytoskeleton decrease aggregation of overproduced Sup35 and de novo prion induction and increase prion-related toxicity in yeast. Deletion of the gene coding for the actin assembly protein Sla2 is lethal in cells containing the prion isoforms of both Sup35 and Rnq1 proteins simultaneously. Our data are consistent with a model in which cytoskeletal structures provide a scaffold for generation of large aggregates, resembling mammalian aggresomes. These aggregates promote prion formation. Moreover, it appears that the actin cytoskeleton also plays a certain role in counteracting the toxicity of the overproduced potentially aggregating proteins.
Fluorescent live cell imaging has recently been used in numerous studies to examine prions in yeast. These fluorescence studies take advantage of the fact that unlike the normally folded form, the misfolded amyloid form of the prion protein is aggregated. The studies have used fluorescence to identify new prions, to study the transmission of prion from mother to daughter, and to understand the role of molecular chaperones in this transmission. The use of fluorescence imaging complements the more standard methods used to study prion propagation. This review discusses the various studies that have taken advantage of fluorescence imaging technique particularly in regard to understanding the transmission and curing of the [PSI+], the prion form of the translation termination factor Sup35p.
Misfolding and aggregation of prion proteins is linked to a number of neurodegenerative disorders such as Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD) and its variants: Kuru, Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker syndrome and fatal familial insomnia. In prion diseases, infectious particles are proteins that propagate by transmitting a misfolded state of a protein, leading to the formation of aggregates and ultimately to neurodegeneration. Prion phenomenon is not restricted to humans. There are a number of prion-related diseases in a variety of mammals, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, also known as “mad cow disease”) in cattle. All known prion diseases, collectively called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), are untreatable and fatal. Prion proteins were also found in some fungi where they are responsible for heritable traits. Prion proteins in fungi are easily accessible and provide a powerful model for understanding the general principles of prion phenomenon and molecular mechanisms of mammalian prion diseases. Presently, several fundamental questions related to prions remain unanswered. For example, it is not clear how prions cause the disease. Other unknowns include the nature and structure of infectious agent and how prions replicate. Generally, the phenomenon of misfolding of the prion protein into infectious conformations that have the ability to propagate their properties via aggregation is of significant interest. Despite the crucial importance of misfolding and aggregation, very little is currently known about the molecular mechanisms of these processes. While there is an apparent critical need to study molecular mechanisms underlying misfolding and aggregation, the detailed characterization of these single molecule processes is hindered by the limitation of conventional methods. Although some issues remain unresolved, much progress has been recently made primarily due to the application of nanoimaging tools. The use of nanoimaging methods shows great promise for understanding the molecular mechanisms of prion phenomenon, possibly leading toward early diagnosis and effective treatment of these devastating diseases. This review article summarizes recent reports which advanced our understanding of the prion phenomenon through the use of nanoimaging methods.
protein misfolding; prion; atomic force microscopy; nanomedicine; force spectroscopy
Self-perpetuating changes in the conformations of amyloidogenic proteins play vital roles in normal biology and disease. Despite intense research, amyloid architecture and conformational conversion remain poorly understood. Amyloid conformers of Sup35 are the molecular embodiment of the yeast prion [PSI+], which produces heritable changes in phenotype through self-perpetuating changes in protein folding. We determine the nature of Sup35’s cooperatively folded amyloid core and use this information to investigate central questions in prion biology. Specific segments of the amyloid core form intermolecular contacts in a ‘Head-to-Head’, ‘Tail-to-Tail’ fashion, while the Central Core is sequestered in intramolecular contacts. The “Head” acquires productive interactions first and these nucleate assembly. Variations in the length of the amyloid core and the nature of intermolecular interfaces are the structural basis of distinct prion “strains”, which produce variant phenotypes in vivo. These findings solve several problems in yeast prion biology and have broad implications for other amyloids.
Inheritance of phenotypic traits depends on two key events: replication of the determinant of that trait and partitioning of these copies between mother and daughter cells. Although these processes are well understood for nucleic acid–based genes, the mechanisms by which protein-only or prion-based genetic elements direct phenotypic inheritance are poorly understood. Here, we report a process crucial for inheritance of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae prion [PSI+], a self-replicating conformer of the Sup35 protein. By tightly controlling expression of a Sup35-GFP fusion, we directly observe remodeling of existing Sup35[PSI+] complexes in vivo. This dynamic change in Sup35[PSI+] is lost when the molecular chaperone Hsp104, a factor essential for propagation of all yeast prions, is functionally impaired. The loss of Sup35[PSI+] remodeling by Hsp104 decreases the mobility of these complexes in the cytosol, creates a segregation bias that limits their transmission to daughter cells, and consequently diminishes the efficiency of conversion of newly made Sup35 to the prion form. Our observations resolve several seemingly conflicting reports on the mechanism of Hsp104 action and point to a single Hsp104-dependent event in prion propagation.
The inheritance of phenotypic traits (the observable characteristics of the organism) is a fundamental process in biology. Most phenotypes are controlled by a cell's genes, and a particular phenotype becomes heritable when this underlying genetic information is copied and transmitted to progeny. In contrast, another group of phenotypes appears to be inherited through a protein-only, or prion, mechanism in which the structure of a protein rather than its sequence is the molecular determinant of the phenotype. It is thought that the presence of a prion in a cell forces conversion of a normal cellular protein into a differently folded shape (the prion form), which simultaneously deprives the cell of the protein's normal function and causes the prion-folded protein to aggregate within the cell. However, prion inheritance (how prions are passed down to daughter cells) remains poorly understood.
Using the yeast prion [PSI+] as a model system, we have elucidated a process necessary for protein-only inheritance. Here we show that the molecular chaperone Hsp104, a factor necessary for the inheritance of all known yeast prions, plays a single primary role in generating additional templates for protein-state replication. In the absence of this activity, existing prion templates are inefficiently transferred to daughter cells. As a consequence, the rate of protein-state replication is greatly decreased, and the protein-based phenotype is progressively lost.
The authors examine the role of the molecular chaperone Hsp104 in controlling inheritance of the prion form of Sup35[PSI+].
Yeast prions are heritable protein-based genetic elements which rely on molecular chaperone proteins for stable transmission to cell progeny. Within the past few years, five new prions have been validated and 18 additional putative prions identified in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The exploration of the physical and biological properties of these “nouveau prions” has begun to reveal the extent of prion diversity in yeast. We recently reported that one such prion, [SWI+], differs from the best studied, archetypal prion [PSI+] in several significant ways.1 Notably, [SWI+] is highly sensitive to alterations in Hsp70 system chaperone activity and is lost upon growth at elevated temperatures. In that report we briefly noted a correlation amongst prions regarding amino acid composition, seed number and sensitivity to the activity of the Hsp70 chaperone system. Here we extend that analysis and put forth the idea that [SWI+] may be representative of a class of asparagine-rich yeast prions which also includes [URE3], [MOT3+] and [ISP+], distinct from the glutamine-rich prions such as [PSI+] and [RNQ+]. While much work remains, it is apparent that our understanding of the extent of the diversity of prion characteristics is in its infancy.
Sis1; Hsp40; chromatin remodeling; Swi1; Ssa; heat-shock; protein misfolding; cell stress; Hsp 104; PIN
In yeast cells infected with the [PSI+] prion, Sup35p forms aggregates and its activity in translation termination is down-regulated. Transfection experiments have shown that Sup35p filaments assembled in vitro are infectious, suggesting that they reproduce or closely resemble the prion. We have used several EM techniques to study the molecular architecture of filaments, seeking clues as to the mechanism of down-regulation. Sup35p has an N-terminal “prion” domain; a highly charged middle (M-)domain; and a C-terminal domain with the translation termination activity. By negative staining, cryo-EM, and scanning transmission EM (STEM), filaments of full-length Sup35p show a thin backbone fibril surrounded by a diffuse 65nm-wide cloud of globular C-domains. In diameter (~8nm) and appearance, the backbones resemble amyloid fibrils of N-domains alone. STEM mass-per-unit-length data yield ~1 subunit per 0.47 nm for N-fibrils, NM-filaments, and Sup35p, further supporting the fibril backbone model. The 30 nm radial span of decorating C-domains indicates that the M-domains assume highly extended conformations, offering an explanation for the residual Sup35p activity in infected cells, whereby the C-domains remain free enough to interact with ribosomes.
cryo-electron microscopy; scanning transmission electron microscopy; linker polypeptide
The aggregation of the baker's yeast prion Sup35p is at the origin of the transmissible [PSI+] trait. We and others have shown that molecular chaperones modulate Sup35p aggregation. However, other protein classes might be involved in [PSI+] formation.
We designed a functional proteomic study that combines two techniques to identify modulators of Sup35p aggregation and describe the changes associated to [PSI+] formation. The first allows measuring the effect of fractionated Saccharomyces cerevisiae cytosolic extracts from [PSI+] and [psi−] yeast cells on Sup35p assembly. The second is a multiplex qualitative and quantitative comparison of protein composition of active and inactive fractions using a gel-free and label-free LC-MS approach. We identify changes in proteins involved in translation, folding, degradation, oxido-reduction and metabolic processes.
Our functional proteomic study provides the first inventory list of over 300 proteins that directly or indirectly affect Sup35p aggregation and [PSI+] formation. Our results highlight the complexity of the cellular changes accompanying [PSI+] formation and pave the way for in vitro studies aimed to document the effect of individual and/or combinations of proteins identified here, susceptible of affecting Sup35p assembly.
[PSI+] strains of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae replicate and transmit the prion form of the Sup35p protein but can be permanently cured of this property when grown in millimolar concentrations of guanidine hydrochloride (GdnHCl). GdnHCl treatment leads to the inhibition of the replication of the [PSI+] seeds necessary for continued [PSI+] propagation. Here we demonstrate that the rate of incorporation of newly synthesized Sup35p into the high-molecular-weight aggregates, diagnostic of [PSI+] strains, is proportional to the number of seeds in the cell, with seed number declining (and the levels of soluble Sup35p increasing) in the presence of GdnHCl. GdnHCl does not cause breakdown of preexisting Sup35p aggregates in [PSI+] cells. Transfer of GdnHCl-treated cells to GdnHCl-free medium reverses GdnHCl inhibition of [PSI+] seed replication and allows new prion seeds to be generated exponentially in the absence of ongoing protein synthesis. Following such release the [PSI+] seed numbers double every 20 to 22 min. Recent evidence (P. C. Ferreira, F. Ness, S. R. Edwards, B. S. Cox, and M. F. Tuite, Mol. Microbiol. 40:1357-1369, 2001; G. Jung and D. C. Masison, Curr. Microbiol. 43:7-10, 2001), together with data presented here, suggests that curing yeast prions by GdnHCl is a consequence of GdnHCl inhibition of the activity of molecular chaperone Hsp104, which in turn is essential for [PSI+] propagation. The kinetics of elimination of [PSI+] by coexpression of a dominant, ATPase-negative allele of HSP104 were similar to those observed for GdnHCl-induced elimination. Based on these and other data, we propose a two-cycle model for “prionization” of Sup35p in [PSI+] cells: cycle A is the GdnHCl-sensitive (Hsp104-dependent) replication of the prion seeds, while cycle B is a GdnHCl-insensitive (Hsp104-independent) process that converts these seeds to pelletable aggregates.
Yeast prion determinants are related to polymerization of some proteins into amyloid-like fibers. The [PSI+] determinant reflects polymerization of the Sup35 protein. Fragmentation of prion polymers by the Hsp104 chaperone represents a key step of the prion replication cycle. The frequency of fragmentation varies depending on the structure of the prion polymers and defines variation in the prion phenotypes, e.g., the suppressor strength of [PSI+] and stability of its inheritance. Besides [PSI+], overproduction of Sup35 can produce nonheritable phenotypically silent Sup35 amyloid-like polymers. These polymers are fragmented poorly and are present due to efficient seeding with the Rnq1 prion polymers, which occurs by several orders of magnitude more frequently than seeding of [PSI+] appearance. Such Sup35 polymers resemble human nonprion amyloids by their nonheritability, mode of appearance and increased size. Thus, a single protein, Sup35, can model both prion and nonprion amyloids. In yeast, these phenomena are distinguished by the frequency of polymer fragmentation. We argue that in mammals the fragmentation frequency also represents a key factor defining differing properties of prion and nonprion amyloids, including infectivity. By analogy with the Rnq1 seeding of nonheritable Sup35 polymers, the “species barrier” in prion transmission may be due to seeding by heterologous prion of nontransmissible type of amyloid, rather than due to the lack of seeding.
amyloid; prion; Rnq1; Sup35; Ure2; translation termination; yeast
The yeast and fungal prions determine heritable and infectious traits, and are thus genes composed of protein. Most prions are inactive forms of a normal protein as it forms a self-propagating filamentous β – sheet - rich polymer structure called amyloid. Remarkably, a single prion protein sequence can form two or more faithfully inherited prion variants, in effect alleles of these genes. What protein structure explains this protein-based inheritance? Using solid-state NMR, we showed that the infectious amyloids of the prion domains of Ure2p, Sup35p and Rnq1p have an in-register parallel architecture. This structure explains how the amyloid filament ends can template the structure of a new protein as it joins the filament.
The yeast prions [PSI+] and [URE3] are not found in wild strains, indicating they are a disadvantage to the cell. Moreover, the prion domains of Ure2p and Sup35p have functions unrelated to prion formation, indicating that these domains are not present for the purpose of forming prions. Indeed, prion forming ability is not conserved, even within S. cerevisiae, suggesting that the rare formation of prions is a disease. The prion domain sequences generally vary more rapidly in evolution than does the remainder of the molecule, producing a barrier to prion transmission, perhaps selected in evolution by this protection.
prion; amyloid; in-register parallel structure