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J Mol Neurosci. 2008;34(1):9-15. Epub 2007 Jun 14.

The role of the prion protein in the molecular basis for synaptic plasticity and nervous system development.

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Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0683, USA.


The cellular prion protein (PrP(C)) is found prominently at the synapse. However, its role at the nerve termini and elsewhere is unknown. Here we discuss research presented at the 2005 International Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter (I2CAM) first Annual Amyloid Conference that provides insight into the role of synaptic PrP(C). The prion protein can interact and facilitate copper uptake at the synapse, is presumed to oligodimerize to facilitate putative cell-cell adhesion, and it transports toward the synapse by fast microtubule-based anterograde transport. While PrP(C) appears to be involved in all these processes, the mechanisms of PrP(C) function in each of them remain unclear. A role for PrP(C) in these distinct processes suggests a complex role for this protein at the synapse. Unraveling PrP(C) function will likely entail employing combined approaches that take into account its possible multifaceted functions.

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