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BMC Biol. 2009 May 26;7:26. doi: 10.1186/1741-7007-7-26.

Heterologous cross-seeding mimics cross-species prion conversion in a yeast model.

Author information

  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Chicago, IL 60607, USA. namivish@yahoo.com

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

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.

RESULTS:

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.

CONCLUSION:

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.

PMID:
19470166
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2694167
Free PMC Article

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