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issn:1933-690
1.  Quantum dots and prion proteins 
Prion  2013;7(5):349-358.
A diagnostics of infectious diseases can be done by the immunologic methods or by the amplification of nucleic acid specific to contagious agent using polymerase chain reaction. However, in transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, the infectious agent, prion protein (PrPSc), has the same sequence of nucleic acids as a naturally occurring protein. The other issue with the diagnosing based on the PrPSc detection is that the pathological form of prion protein is abundant only at late stages of the disease in a brain. Therefore, the diagnostics of prion protein caused diseases represent a sort of challenges as that hosts can incubate infectious prion proteins for many months or even years. Therefore, new in vivo assays for detection of prion proteins and for diagnosis of their relation to neurodegenerative diseases are summarized. Their applicability and future prospects in this field are discussed with particular aim at using quantum dots as fluorescent labels.
doi:10.4161/pri.26524
PMCID: PMC4134339  PMID: 24055838
imaging; label; neurodegenerative disease; prion protein; quantum dots
2.  Sortilin, a novel APOE receptor implicated in Alzheimer disease 
Prion  2013;7(5):378-382.
In the brain, apolipoprotein E (APOE) delivers cholesterol-rich lipoproteins to neurons to support synaptogenesis and maintenance of synaptic connections. Three APOE alleles exist in the human population with ε4 being an Alzheimer disease (AD) risk gene and ε2 being protective relative to the common ε3 variant. Many hypotheses have been advanced concerning allele-specific effects of APOE on neurodegeneration including effects on Aβ clearance, synaptic transmission, or neurotoxicity. Central to most proposed APOE functions is its interaction with receptors that mediate cellular uptake of this ligand. Several members of the LDL receptor gene family have been implicated as APOE receptors in the (patho)physiology of APOE in the brain, yet their specific modes of action in AD remain controversial. Recently, the pro-neurotrophin receptor sortilin has been identified as a novel APOE receptor in neurons. Ablation of sortilin expression in mice results in accumulation of APOE and Aβ in the brain. Moreover, primary neurons lacking sortilin exhibit significantly impaired uptake of APOE/Aβ complexes. Despite increased brain APOE levels, sortilin-deficient animals recapitulate anomalies in brain lipid homeostasis seen in APOE null mice, indicating functional deficiency in APOE uptake pathways. Taken together, these findings suggest a link between Aβ catabolism and pro-neurotrophin signaling converging on this receptor pathway.
doi:10.4161/pri.26746
PMCID: PMC4134342  PMID: 24121631
Alzheimer disease; LDLR gene family; amyloid β; apolipoprotein E; neurotrophins; sortilin
3.  PrP mRNA and protein expression in brain and PrPc in CSF in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease MM1 and VV2 
Prion  2013;7(5):383-393.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a heterogenic neurodegenerative disorder associated with abnormal post-translational processing of cellular prion protein (PrPc). CJD displays distinctive clinical and pathological features which correlate with the genotype at the codon 129 (methionine or valine: M or V respectively) in the prion protein gene and with size of the protease-resistant core of the abnormal prion protein PrPsc (type 1: 20/21 kDa and type 2: 19 kDa). MM1 and VV2 are the most common sporadic CJD (sCJD) subtypes. PrP mRNA expression levels in the frontal cortex and cerebellum are reduced in sCJD in a form subtype-dependent. Total PrP protein levels and PrPsc levels in the frontal cortex and cerebellum accumulate differentially in sCJD MM1 and sCJD VV2 with no relation between PrPsc deposition and spongiform degeneration and neuron loss, but with microgliosis, and IL6 and TNF-α response. In the CSF, reduced PrPc, the only form present in this compartment, occurs in sCJD MM1 and VV2. PrP mRNA expression is also reduced in the frontal cortex in advanced stages of Alzheimer disease, Lewy body disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, and frontotemporal lobe degeneration, but PrPc levels in brain varies from one disease to another. Reduced PrPc levels in CSF correlate with PrP mRNA expression in brain, which in turn reflects severity of degeneration in sCJD.
doi:10.4161/pri.26416
PMCID: PMC4134343  PMID: 24047819
prion protein; Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; cerebrospinal fluid; brain; mRNA; neurodegenerative diseases
4.  Low activity of select Hsp104 mutants is sufficient to propagate unstable prion variants 
Prion  2013;7(5):394-403.
The molecular chaperone network plays a critical role in the formation and propagation of self-replicating yeast prions. Not only do individual prions differ in their requirements for certain chaperones, but structural variants of the same prion can also display distinct dependences on the chaperone machinery, specifically Hsp104. The AAA+ ATPase Hsp104 is a disaggregase required for the maintenance of most known yeast prions. As a key component in the propagation of prions, understanding how Hsp104 differs in its interaction with specific variants is crucial to understanding how prion variants may be selected or evolve. Here, we investigate two novel mutations in Hsp104, hsp104-G254D, and hsp104-G730D, which allow us to elucidate some mechanistic features of Hsp104 disaggregation and its requirement for activity in propagating specific prion variants. Both Hsp104 mutants propagate the [PSI+] prion to some extent, but show a high rate of prion loss. Both Hsp104-G254D and Hsp104-G730D display reduced biochemical activity, yet differ in their ability to efficiently resolubilize disordered, heat-aggregated substrates. Additionally, both mutants impair weak [PSI+] propagation, but are capable of propagating the less stable strong [PSI+] variant to some extent. One of the Hsp104 mutants also has the ability to propagate one variant of the [RNQ+] prion. Thus, our data suggest that changes in Hsp104 activity limit substrate disaggregation in a manner that depends more on the stability of the substrate than the nature of the aggregated species.
doi:10.4161/pri.26547
PMCID: PMC4134344  PMID: 24064980
Hsp104; chaperone biology; yeast prions; [PSI+]; [RNQ+]; prion variants
5.  Impact of methionine oxidation as an initial event on the pathway of human prion protein conversion 
Prion  2013;7(5):404-411.
Prion diseases comprise a group of fatal neurodegenerative disorders characterized by the autocatalytic conversion of the cellular prion protein PrPC into the infectious misfolded isoform PrPSc. Increasing evidence supports a specific role of oxidative stress in the onset of pathogenesis. Although the associated molecular mechanisms remain to be elucidated in detail, several studies currently suggest that methionine oxidation already detected in misfolded PrPSc destabilizes the native PrP fold as an early event in the conversion pathway. To obtain more insights about the specific impact of surface-exposed methionine residues on the oxidative-induced conversion of human PrP we designed, produced, and comparatively investigated two new pseudosulfoxidation mutants of human PrP 121–231 that comprises the well-folded C-terminal domain. Applying circular dichroism spectroscopy and dynamic light scattering techniques we showed that pseudosulfoxidation of all surface exposed Met residues formed a monomeric molten globule-like species with striking similarities to misfolding intermediates recently reported by other groups. However, individual pseudosulfoxidation at the polymorphic M129 site did not significantly contribute to the structural destabilization. Further metal-induced oxidation of the partly unfolded pseudosulfoxidation mutant resulted in the formation of an oligomeric state that shares a comparable size and stability with PrP oligomers detected after the application of different other triggers for structural conversion, indicating a generic misfolding pathway of PrP. The obtained results highlight the specific importance of methionine oxidation at surface exposed residues for PrP misfolding, strongly supporting the hypothesis that increased oxidative stress could be one causative event for sporadic prion diseases and other neurodegenerative disorders.
doi:10.4161/pri.26745
PMCID: PMC4134345  PMID: 24121542
oxidative stress; methionine oxidation; prion protein conversion; polymorphism; metal induced oxidation
6.  Lack of prion transmission by sexual or parental routes in experimentally infected hamsters 
Prion  2013;7(5):412-419.
Prion diseases are a group of neurodegenerative disorders affecting humans as well as captive and wild animals. The mechanisms and routes governing the natural spread of prions are not completely understood and several hypotheses have been proposed. In this study, we analyzed the effect of gender in prion incubation period, as well as the possibility of prion transmission by sexual and parental contact using 263K infected hamsters as a model. Our results show that males have significantly longer incubation periods compared with females when exposed to the same quantity of infectious material. Importantly, no evidence of sexual or parental prion transmission was found, even 500 d after sexual contact or birth, respectively. Western blotting and PMCA were unable to detect sub-clinical levels of PrPSc in experimental subjects, suggesting a complete absence of prion transmission by these routes. Our results show that sexual and parental transmission of prions does not occur in this model. It remains to be studied whether this conclusion is valid also for other prion strains and species.
doi:10.4161/pri.26747
PMCID: PMC4134346  PMID: 24121659
prion; 263K; Syrian hamster; sexual transmission; parental transmission; protein misfolding cyclic amplification
7.  PrPSc-specific antibodies do not induce prion disease or misfolding of PrPC in highly susceptible Tga20 mice 
Prion  2013;7(5):434-439.
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are fatal neurodegenerative disorders caused by misfolding of a cellular protein PrPC into an infectious conformation PrPSc. Previously our group demonstrated induction of PrPSc-specific antibodies with a SN6b vaccine that targets regions of the protein that are exposed upon misfolding. There are concerns that these antibodies could function as templates to promote misfolding and cause disease. To evaluate the consequences of prolonged exposure to PrPSc-specific antibodies in a prion sensitized animal, tga20 mice were vaccinated with the SN6b vaccine. No clinical signs of disease were detected up to 255 d post-vaccination, and postmortem assay of brains and spleens revealed no proteinase-K resistant PrP. These results suggest that vaccinating against TSEs with the SN6b antigen is safe from the standpoint of prion disease induction.
doi:10.4161/pri.26639
PMCID: PMC4134347  PMID: 24105298
disease specific epitope; immunotherapy; misfolding; prion; safety; vaccine
8.  Could avian scavengers translocate infectious prions to disease-free areas initiating new foci of chronic wasting disease? 
Prion  2013;7(4):263-266.
Mechanisms for the spread of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy diseases, including chronic wasting disease (CWD) in North American cervids, are incompletely understood, but primary routes include horizontal and environmental transmission. Birds have been identified as potential vectors for a number of diseases, where they ingest or are exposed to infected material and later shed the disease agent in new areas after flying substantial distances. We recently identified American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) as having the potential to translocate infectious prions in their feces. Our results suggest that this common, migratory North American scavenger is capable of translocating infectious prions to disease-free areas, potentially seeding CWD infection where no other initial source of pathogen establishment is forthcoming. Here we speculate on the role avian scavengers, like American crows, might play in the spatial dissemination of CWD. We also consider the role mammalian scavengers may play in dispersing prions.
doi:10.4161/pri.25621
PMCID: PMC3904308  PMID: 23822910
American crows; Corvus brachyrhynchos; CWD; disease transmission; transmissible spongiform encephalopathy; TSE
9.  How independent are TSE agents from their hosts? 
Prion  2013;7(4):272-275.
Central to understanding the nature TSE agents (or prions) is how their genetic information is distinguished from the host. Are TSEs truly infectious diseases with host-independent genomes, or are they aberrations of a host component derived from the host genome? Recent experiments tested whether glycosylation of host PrP affects TSE strain characteristics. Wild-type mice were infected with 3 TSE strains passaged through transgenic mice with PrP devoid of glycans at 1 or both N-glycosylation sites. Strain-specific characteristics of 1 TSE strain changed but did not change for 2 others. Changes resulted from the selection of mutant TSE strains in a novel replicative environment. In general the properties of established TSEs support the genetic independence of TSE agents from the host, and specifically the primary structure of PrP does not directly encode TSE agent properties. However sporadic TSEs, challenge this independency. The prion hypothesis explains emerging TSEs relatively successfully but poorly accounts for the diversity and mutability of established TSE strains, or how many different infectious conformations are sustained thermodynamically. Research on early changes in RNA expression and events at the ribosome may inform the debate on TSE agent properties and their interaction with host cell machinery.
doi:10.4161/pri.25420
PMCID: PMC3904310  PMID: 23787696
TSE agents; prion hypothesis; genetic information; infectious disease; glycosylation; mutability
10.  Implications of prion polymorphisms 
Prion  2013;7(4):276-279.
The sequence of a host’s prion protein (PrP) can affect that host’s susceptibility to prion disease and is the primary basis for the species barrier to transmission. Yet within many species, polymorphisms of the prion protein gene (Prnp) exist, each of which can further affect susceptibility or influence incubation period, pathology and phenotype. As strains are defined by these features (incubation period, pathology, phenotype), polymorphisms may also lead to the preferential propagation or generation of certain strains. In our recent study of the mouse Prnpa and Prnpb polymorphisms (which produced the proteins PrPa and PrPb, respectively), we found differences in aggregation tendency, strain adaptability and conformational variability. Comparing our in vitro data with that of in vivo studies, we found that differing incubation periods between Prnpa and Prnpb mice can primarily be explained on the basis of faster or more efficient aggregation of PrPa. In addition, and more importantly, we found that the faithful propagation of strains in Prnpb mice can be explained by the ability of PrPb to adopt a wider range of conformations. This adaptability allows PrPb to successfully propagate the structural features of a seed. In contrast, Prnpa mice revert PrPb strains into PrPa -type strains, and overall they have a narrower distribution of incubation periods. This can be explained by PrPa having fewer preferred conformations. We propose that Prnp polymorphisms are one route by which certain prion strains may preferentially propagate. This has significant implications for prion disease, chronic wasting disease (CWD) in particular, as it is spreading through North America. Deer which are susceptible to CWD also carry polymorphisms which influence their susceptibility. If these polymorphisms also preferentially allow strain diversification and propagation, this may accelerate the crossing of species barriers and propagation of the disease up the food chain.
doi:10.4161/pri.25566
PMCID: PMC3904311  PMID: 23807178
prion; amyloid; strain; polymorphism; adaptation; propagation; species barrier; aggregation; kinetics; mouse
11.  Not on the menu 
Prion  2013;7(4):286-290.
A common feature of neurodegenerative diseases is the accumulation of disease-specific, aggregated protein species in the nervous system. Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies are universally fatal neurodegenerative diseases involving the transconformation and aggregation of prion proteins. At the cellular level macroautophagy has been identified as an efficient pathway for the clearance of these toxic protein aggregates. Hence, recent research has focused on the pharmacological manipulation of autophagy as a potential treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. Independent of their effects on the estrogen receptor, tamoxifen and its metabolite 4-hydroxytamoxifen are well known inducers of autophagy. However, we recently reported that the ability of 4-hydroxytamoxifen to clear prion infection is independent of autophagy. In contrast, we provide a model whereby perturbation of cholesterol metabolism, and not autophagy, is the main mechanism whereby 4-hydroxytamoxifen is able to exert its anti-prion effects. Thus, while tamoxifen, a widely available pharmaceutical, may have applications in prion therapy, prions may also represent a special case and may require different pharmacological interventions than other proteinopathies.
doi:10.4161/pri.25809
PMCID: PMC3904313  PMID: 23907058
prion; tamoxifen; 4-hydroxytamoxifen; cholesterol; autophagy; neurodegenerative; aggregates; proteinopathies; U18666A; trafficking
12.  Binding of bovine T194A PrPC by PrPSc-specific antibodies 
Prion  2013;7(4):301-311.
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are fatal neurodegenerative diseases that are based on the misfolding of a cellular prion protein (PrPC) into an infectious, pathological conformation (PrPSc). There is proof-of-principle evidence that a prion vaccine is possible but this is tempered with concerns of the potential dangers associated with induction of immune responses to a widely-expressed self-protein. By targeting epitopes that are specifically exposed upon protein misfolding, our group developed a vaccine that induces PrPSc-specific antibody responses. Here we consider the ability of this polyclonal antibody (SN6b) to bind to a mutant of PrPC associated with spontaneous prion disease. Polyclonal antibodies were selected to mimic the vaccination outcome and also explore all possible protein conformations of the recombinant bovine prion protein with mutation T194A [bPrP(T194A)]. This mutant is a homolog of the human T183A mutation of PrPC that is associated with early onset of familial dementia. With nanopore analysis, under non-denaturing conditions, we observed binding of the SN6b antibody to bPrP(T194A). This interaction was confirmed through ELISAs as well as immunoprecipitation of the recombinant and cellularly expressed forms of bPrP(T194A). This interaction did not promote formation of a protease resistant conformation of PrP in vitro. Collectively, these findings support the disease-specific approach for immunotherapy of prion diseases but also suggest that the concept of conformation-specific immunotherapy may be complicated in individuals who are genetically predisposed to PrPC misfolding.
doi:10.4161/pri.25148
PMCID: PMC3904316  PMID: 23787697
nanopore; prion diseases; conformation-specific immunotherapy; antibodies; protein conformation; protein misfolding; protein denaturation; neurodegenerative diseases
13.  Vitamin D2 interacts with Human PrPc (90–231) and breaks PrPc oligomerization in vitro 
Prion  2013;7(4):312-318.
PrPsc, the pathogenic isoform of PrPc, can convert PrPc into PrPsc through direct interactions. PrPc oligomerization is a required processing step before PrPsc formation, and soluble oligomers appear to be the toxic species in amyloid-related disorders. In the current study, direct interactions between vitamin D2 and human recombinant PrPc (90–231) were observed by Biacore assay, and 3F4 antibody, specific for amino acid fragment 109–112 of PrPc, inhibited this interaction. An ELISA study using3F4 antibody showed that PrPc (101–130), corresponding sequence to human PrP, was affected by vitamin D2, supporting the results of Biacore studies and suggesting that the PrPc sequence around the 3F4 epitope was responsible for the interaction with vitamin D2. Furthermore, the effects of vitamin D2 on disruption of PrPc (90–231) oligomerization were elucidated by dot blot analysis and differential protease k susceptibilities. While many chemical compounds have been proposed as potential therapeutic agents for the treatment of scrapie, most of these are toxic. However, given the safety and blood brain barrier permeability of vitamin D2, we propose that vitamin D2 may be a suitable agent to target PrPc in the brain and therefore is a potential therapeutic candidate for prion disease.
doi:10.4161/pri.25739
PMCID: PMC3904317  PMID: 23857314
prion disease; PrPc; oligomerization; vitamin D2; PrPsc
14.  Heligmosomoides polygyrus antigens inhibit the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis by overexpression of survivin and Bcl-2 protein in CD4 T cells 
Prion  2013;7(4):319-327.
Many laboratory studies and epidemiological observations confirm that nematodes prevent some immune-mediated diseases. The development of immunologically well-defined laboratory models of intestinal nematode infection has allowed significant advances to be made in understanding the immunological basis of effector mechanisms operating during infection under controlled laboratory conditions. The Heligmosomoides polygyrus- mouse system is used for studies of parasite immunomodulation. H. polygyrus causes a chronic, asymptomatic intestinal infection and effectively maintains both local and systemic tolerance to reduce allergic and autoimmune inflammation. However, exposure of mice to H. polygyrus antigen reduced spontaneous and glucocorticoid-induced apoptosis of CD4- positive T cells in mesenteric lymph node (MLN). In this study we evaluate the proliferation, cytokine secretion, cell cycle progression and expression of apoptosis related genes in MLN CD4 T cells of uninfected and H. polygyrus infected mice ex vivo and in vitro after restimulation with parasite excretory secretory antigen (ESAg), somatic antigen (SAg) and fraction 9 (F9Ag) of somatic antigen. For the first time we explain the influence of H. polygyrus antigens on the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis. We found that the proliferation provoked by fraction 9 and inhibition of apoptosis was dependent on a low Bax/Bcl-2 ratio, dramatical upregulation of survivin, D1 cyclin, P-glycoprotein, and loss of p27Kip1 protein with inhibition of active caspase-3 but not caspase- 8.
doi:10.4161/pri.25008
PMCID: PMC3904318  PMID: 23787700
intestinal nematodes; CD4 T cells; apoptosis; proliferation; cell cycle; survivin; Bcl-2 family protein
15.  Structure-based approach to alter the substrate specificity of Bacillus subtilis aminopeptidase 
Prion  2013;7(4):328-334.
Aminopeptidases can selectively catalyze the cleavage of the N-terminal amino acid residues from peptides and proteins. Bacillus subtilis aminopeptidase (BSAP) is most active toward p-nitroanilides (pNAs) derivatives of Leu, Arg, and Lys. The BSAP with broad substrate specificity is expected to improve its application. Based on an analysis of the predicted structure of BSAP, four residues (Leu 370, Asn 385, Ile 387, and Val 396) located in the substrate binding region were selected for saturation mutagenesis. The hydrolytic activity toward different aminoacyl-pNAs of each mutant BSAP in the culture supernatant was measured. Although the mutations resulted in a decrease of hydrolytic activity toward Leu-pNA, N385L BSAP exhibited higher hydrolytic activities toward Lys-pNA (2.2-fold) and Ile-pNA (9.1-fold) than wild-type BSAP. Three mutant enzymes (I387A, I387C and I387S BSAPs) specially hydrolyzed Phe-pNA, which was undetectable in wild-type BSAP. Among these mutant BSAPs, N385L and I387A BSAPs were selected for further characterized and used for protein hydrolysis application. Both of N385L and I387A BSAPs showed higher hydrolysis efficiency than the wild-type BASP and a combination of the wild-type and N385L and I387A BSAPs exhibited the highest hydrolysis efficiency for protein hydrolysis. This study will greatly facilitate studies aimed on change the substrate specificity and our results obtained here should be useful for BSAP application in food industry.
doi:10.4161/pri.25147
PMCID: PMC3904319  PMID: 23787698
Bacillus subtilis; aminopeptidase; substrate specificity; saturation mutagenesis; protein hydrolysis
16.  32k Da protein improve ovariectomy-induced bone loss in rats 
Prion  2013;7(4):335-340.
The objective of the present study was to systematically explore the effects of 32K Da protein (32KP) on postmenopausal osteoporosis. Eighty 3-mo-old female Sprague-Dawley rats were employed and randomly divided into one sham-operated group (SHAM) and five ovariectomy (OVX) subgroups as OVX (control), OVX with 17-ethinylestradiol (E2, 25 g/kg/day), OVX with 32KP of graded doses (50, 50, or 150 mg/kg/day). 32KP or E2 diet was fed on week 4 after operation, for 16 weeks. Bone mass, bone turnover and strength were evaluated by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), biochemical markers and three-point bending test, respectively. Femur marrow cavity was observed by light microscopy via hematoxylin-eosin staining. It is observed that different dosage treatment of 32KP increased the body weight and prevented the loss of bone mass induced by OVX. The prevention effect against bone loss was presumably due to the altering of the rate of bone remodeling. The bone mineral density and bone calcium content in OVX rats were lower than that in the control group, suggesting that 32KP was able to prevent significant bone loss. In addition, the data from three point bending test and femur sections showed that 32KP treatment enhanced bone strength and reduced the marrow cavity of the femur in OVX rats. In the serum and urine assay, 32KP decreased urinary deoxypyridinoline and calcium concentrations; however, serum alkaline phosphatase activities were not inhibited. It suggested that amelioration of bone loss was changed via inhibition of bone reabsorption. Our findings indicated that 32KP might be a potential alternative drug for the prevention and treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
doi:10.4161/pri.26020
PMCID: PMC3904320  PMID: 23924638
32k Da Protein; DEXA; biochemical markers; mechanical test; bone turnover
17.  Determination of the biochemical properties of full-length human PIF1 ATPase 
Prion  2013;7(4):341-347.
The PIF1 helicase family performs many cellular functions. To better understand the functions of the human PIF1 helicase, we characterized the biochemical properties of its ATPase. PIF1 is very sensitive to temperature, whereas it is not affected by pH, and the ATPase activity of human PIF1 is dependent on the divalent cations Mg2+ and Mn2+ but not Ca2+ and Zn2+. Inhibition was observed when single-stranded DNA was coated with RPA or SSB. Moreover, the ATPase activity of PIF1 proportionally decreased with decreasing oligonucleotide length due to a decreased binding ability. A minimum of 10 oligonucleotide bases are required for PIF1 binding and the hydrolysis of ATP. The analysis of the biochemical properties of PIF1 together with numerous genetic observations should aid in the understanding of its cellular functions.
doi:10.4161/pri.26022
PMCID: PMC3904321  PMID: 23924759
PIF1 helicase; ATPase; single-stranded DNA binding
18.  Conserved amyloid core structure of stop mutants of the human prion protein 
Prion  2013;7(3):193-197.
Prion diseases are associated with misfolding of the natively α-helical prion protein into isoforms that are rich in cross β-structure. However, both the mechanism by which pathological conformations are produced and their structural properties remain unclear. Using a combination of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, computation, hydroxyl radical probing combined with mass-spectrometry and site-directed mutagenesis, we showed that prion stop mutants that accumulate in amyloidogenic plaque-forming aggregates fold into a β-helix. The polymorphic residue 129 is located in the hydrophobic core of the β-helix in line with a critical role of the 129 region in the packing of protein chains into prion particles. Together with electron microscopy our data support a trimeric left-handed β-helix model in which the trimer interface is formed by residues L125, Y128 and L130. Different prion types or strains might be related to different aggregate structures or filament assemblies.
doi:10.4161/pri.23956
PMCID: PMC3783102  PMID: 23406905
prion; structure; amyloid; stop mutant; trimer
19.  Nanomedicine for prion disease treatment 
Prion  2013;7(3):198-202.
Despite their devastating impact, no effective therapeutic yet exists for prion diseases at the symptomatic stage in humans or animals. Progress is hampered by the difficulty in identifying compounds that affect PrPSc and the necessity of any potential therapeutic to gain access to the CNS. Synthetic polymers known as dendrimers are a particularly promising candidate in this area. Studies with cell culture models of prion disease and prion infected brain homogenate have demonstrated that numerous species of dendrimers eliminate PrPSc in a dose and time dependent fashion and specific glycodendrimers are capable of crossing the CNS. However, despite their potential a number of important questions remained unanswered such as what makes an effective dendrimer and how dendrimers eliminate prions intracellularly. In a number of recent studies we have tackled these questions and revealed for the first time that a specific dendrimer can inhibit the intracellular conversion of PrPC to PrPSc and that a high density of surface reactive groups is a necessity for dendrimers in vitro anti-prion activity. Understanding how a therapeutic works is a vital component in maximising its activity and these studies therefore represent a significant development in the race to find effective treatments for prion diseases.
doi:10.4161/pri.24431
PMCID: PMC3783103  PMID: 23764833
prion; dendrimer; therapeutic; scrapie cell assay; neurodegeneration; PrP N-terminal; amyloid; nanomedicine
20.  CSF prion protein concentration and cognition in patients with Alzheimer disease 
Prion  2013;7(3):229-234.
Background/Objective: PrPc has been suggested to play a role in AD pathophysiology. CSF concentrations of PrPc have been shown to be reduced in AD compared with healthy controls. Furthermore, serum levels of PrPc have recently been reported to be associated with the cognitive status of healthy elderly subjects. Therefore, we hypothesized that CSF levels of PrPc could be associated with cognitive function of AD patients at the time of diagnosis.
 
Methods: AD patients (n = 114) included into an observational study underwent CERAD testing and lumbar puncture at time of diagnosis / study inclusion. CSF PrPc was determined. Generalized linear models were fitted to assess the associations of PrPc plus a variety of possible confounding factors and CERAD subscale measures.
Results: No association of CSF PrPc and cognitive status could be established, while other factors (i.e., use of antipsychotic drugs, use of anti-dementia drugs, female sex, pre-progression time) were related to worse cognitive function in some domains.
Conclusion: CSF PrPc appears not to be a useful biochemical surrogate of cognitive status in AD at the time of diagnosis. Follow-up analyses will examine possible associations with the speed of cognitive decline.
doi:10.4161/pri.23904
PMCID: PMC3783108  PMID: 23406922
Alzheimer; prion protein; cognition; CSF; biomarker
21.  The prion protein M129V polymorphism 
Prion  2013;7(3):244-247.
The PRNP gene encodes the cellular isoform of prion protein (PrPc). The M129V polymorphism influences the risk of prion diseases and may modulate the rate of neurodegeneration with age. We present the first study of the polymorphism among Polish centenarians. In the control group (n = 165, ages 18 to 56 years) the observed M129V genotype frequencies agreed with those expected according to the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium (MM, MV, VV): 43%, 44%, 13% (HWE p > 0.05). Among centenarians (n = 150, ages 100 to 107) both homozygotes were more common than expected and HWE was rejected: 46%, 37%, 17% (expected 42%, 46%, 13%; HWE p = 0.025). This finding is consistent with a higher mortality rate among heterozygotes. However, the observed allele and genotype frequencies did not differ significantly between the oldest-old and the young controls. The genotypic frequencies were not related to severe cognitive impairment among the centenarians.
doi:10.4161/pri.23903
PMCID: PMC3783110  PMID: 23406923
PRNP; longevity; codon 129 polymorphism; cognitive impairment; centenarians; M129V; selective mortality; genetic epidemiology
22.  Amyloidogenic peptide homologous to fragment 129–148 of human myocilin 
Prion  2013;7(3):248-252.
Myocilin is a protein with a molecular weight near 50 kDa. It is expressed in almost all organs and tissues.1 We showed that the peptide DQL ETQ TRE LET AYS NLL RD corresponding to N-terminal Leucine zipper motif (LZM) of the protein is able to form amyloid-like fibrils. The possible role of this motif in myocilin aggregation is discussed.
doi:10.4161/pri.24239
PMCID: PMC3783111  PMID: 23764838
myocilin; fibrillogenesis; leucine zipper motif
23.  Rare V203I mutation in the PRNP gene of a Chinese patient with Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease 
Prion  2013;7(3):259-262.
Here, we report a Chinese case of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD) with a rare mutation in the prion protein gene (PRNP) leading to an exchange of amino acid from valine (Val) to isoleucine (I) at codon 203 (V203I). The 80-y-old male presented with sudden memory loss, rapid loss of vocabulary, inattention and slow responses, accompanied by dizziness, blurred vision and ataxia. Two weeks after admission, he exhibited tremor, myoclonus and bilateral Babinski signs. At the end of the clinical course, he developed severe akinetic mutism. The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) was positive for 14-3-3 protein. Increased bilateral signal intensity in the frontal and parietal lobes was seen on diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI); periodic activity was recorded on an electroencephalogram (EEG). There was no family history of similar symptoms. The total clinical course was approximately two months.
doi:10.4161/pri.24674
PMCID: PMC3783113  PMID: 23764840
14-3-3 protein; PRNP; Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease; V203I; mutation
24.  Prions and lymphoid organs 
Prion  2013;7(2):157-163.
Prion colonization of secondary lymphoid organs (SLOs) is a critical step preceding neuroinvasion in prion pathogenesis. Follicular dendritic cells (FDCs), which depend on both tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 (TNFR1) and lymphotoxin β receptor (LTβR) signaling for maintenance, are thought to be the primary sites of prion accumulation in SLOs. However, prion titers in RML-infected TNFR1−/− lymph nodes and rates of neuroinvasion in TNFR1−/− mice remain high despite the absence of mature FDCs. Recently, we discovered that TNFR1-independent prion accumulation in lymph nodes relies on LTβR signaling. Loss of LTβR signaling in TNFR1−/− lymph nodes coincided with the de-differentiation of high endothelial venules (HEVs)—the primary sites of lymphocyte entry into lymph nodes. These findings suggest that HEVs are the sites through which prions initially invade lymph nodes from the bloodstream. Identification of HEVs as entry portals for prions clarifies a number of previous observations concerning peripheral prion pathogenesis. However, a number of questions still remain: What is the mechanism by which prions are taken up by HEVs? Which cells are responsible for delivering prions to lymph nodes? Are HEVs the main entry site for prions into lymph nodes or do alternative routes also exist? These questions and others are considered in this article.
doi:10.4161/pri.23536
PMCID: PMC3609124  PMID: 23357827
prions; lymph nodes; high endothelial venules; lymphotoxin beta receptor; tumor necrosis factor receptor 1; peripheral prion replication; neuroinvasion; follicular dendritic cell
25.  Expanding the yeast prion world 
Prion  2013;7(2):109-113.
Mammalian and fungal prion proteins form self-perpetuating β-sheet-rich fibrillar aggregates called amyloid. Prion inheritance is based on propagation of the regularly oriented amyloid structures of the prion proteins. All yeast prion proteins identified thus far contain aggregation-prone glutamine/asparagine (Gln/Asn)-rich domains, although the mammalian prion protein and fungal prion protein HET-s do not contain such sequences. In order to fill this gap, we searched for novel yeast prion proteins lacking Gln/Asn-rich domains via a genome-wide screen based on cross-seeding between two heterologous proteins and identified Mod5, a yeast tRNA isopentenyltransferase, as a novel non-Gln/Asn-rich yeast prion protein. Mod5 formed self-propagating amyloid fibers in vitro and the introduction of Mod5 amyloids into non-prion yeast induced dominantly and cytoplasmically heritable prion state [MOD+], which harbors aggregates of endogenous Mod5. [MOD+] yeast showed an increased level of membrane lipid ergosterol and acquired resistance to antifungal agents. Importantly, enhanced de novo formation of [MOD+] was observed when non-prion yeast was grown under selective pressures from antifungal drugs. Our findings expand the family of yeast prions to non-Gln/Asn-rich proteins and reveal the acquisition of a fitness advantage for cell survival through active prion conversion.
doi:10.4161/pri.22685
PMCID: PMC3609114  PMID: 23117914
prion; amyloid; Mod5; tRNA isopentenyltransferase; antifungal drug; cellular adaptation

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