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J Mol Biol. 2009 May 8;388(3):583-96. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2009.03.036. Epub 2009 Mar 24.

Heterologous prion interactions are altered by mutations in the prion protein Rnq1p.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 South Euclid Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


Prions in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae show a surprising degree of interdependence. Specifically, the rate of appearance of the [PSI+] prion, which is thought to be an important mechanism to respond to changing environmental conditions, is greatly increased by another prion, [RNQ+]. While the domains of the Rnq1 protein important for formation of the [RNQ+] prion have been defined, the specific residues required remain unknown. Furthermore, residues in Rnq1p that mediate the interaction between [PSI+] and [RNQ+] are unknown. To identify residues important for prion protein interactions, we created a mutant library of Rnq1p clones in the context of a chimera that serves as proxy for [RNQ+] aggregates. Several of the mutant Rnq1p proteins showed structural differences in the aggregates they formed, as revealed by semi-denaturing detergent agarose gel electrophoresis. Additionally, several of the mutants showed a striking defect in the ability to promote [PSI+] induction. These data indicate that the mutants formed strain variants of [RNQ+]. By dissecting the mutations in the isolated clones, we found five single mutations that caused [PSI+] induction defects, S223P, F184S, Q239R, N297S, and Q298R. These are the first specific mutations characterized in Rnq1p that alter [PSI+] induction. Additionally, we have identified a region important for the propagation of certain strain variants of [RNQ+]. Deletion of this region (amino acids 284-317) affected propagation of the high variant but not medium or low [RNQ+] strain variants. Furthermore, when the low [RNQ+] strain variant was propagated by Delta284-317, [PSI+] induction was greatly increased. These data suggest that this region is important in defining the structure of the [RNQ+] strain variants. These data are consistent with a model of [PSI+] induction caused by physical interactions between Rnq1p and Sup35p.

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