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Nature. 1999 Aug 5;400(6744):573-6.

Oligopeptide-repeat expansions modulate 'protein-only' inheritance in yeast.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, University of Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


The yeast [PSI+] element represents a new type of genetic inheritance, in which changes in phenotype are transmitted by a 'protein only' mechanism reminiscent of the 'protein-only' transmission of mammalian prion diseases. The underlying molecular mechanisms for both are poorly understood and it is not clear how similar they might be. Sup35, the [PSI+] protein determinant, and PrP, the mammalian prion determinant, have different functions, different cellular locations and no sequence similarity; however, each contains five imperfect oligopeptide repeats-PQGGYQQYN in Sup35 and PHGGGWGQ in PrP. Repeat expansions in PrP produce spontaneous prion diseases. Here we show that replacing the wild-type SUP35 gene with a repeat-expansion mutation induces new [PSI+] elements, the first mutation of its type among these newly described elements of inheritance. In vitro, fully denatured repeat-expansion peptides can adopt conformations rich in beta-sheets and form higher-order structures much more rapidly than wild-type peptides. Our results provide insight into the nature of the conformational changes underlying protein-based mechanisms of inheritance and suggest a link between this process and those producing neurodegenerative prion diseases in mammals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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