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Cell. 2003 Dec 26;115(7):879-91.

A neuronal isoform of the aplysia CPEB has prion-like properties.

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  • 1Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, New York State Psychiatric Institute, 722 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA.


Prion proteins have the unusual capacity to fold into two functionally distinct conformations, one of which is self-perpetuating. When yeast prion proteins switch state, they produce heritable phenotypes. We report prion-like properties in a neuronal member of the CPEB family (cytoplasmic polyadenylation element binding protein), which regulates mRNA translation. Compared to other CPEB family members, the neuronal protein has an N-terminal extension that shares characteristics of yeast prion-determinants: a high glutamine content and predicted conformational flexibility. When fused to a reporter protein in yeast, this region confers upon it the epigenetic changes in state that characterize yeast prions. Full-length CPEB undergoes similar changes, but surprisingly it is the dominant, self-perpetuating prion-like form that has the greatest capacity to stimulate translation of CPEB-regulated mRNA. We hypothesize that conversion of CPEB to a prion-like state in stimulated synapses helps to maintain long-term synaptic changes associated with memory storage.

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