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Mol Cell Biol. 2010 Jan;30(1):319-32. doi: 10.1128/MCB.01140-09.

Compositional determinants of prion formation in yeast.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA.


Numerous prions (infectious proteins) have been identified in yeast that result from the conversion of soluble proteins into beta-sheet-rich amyloid-like protein aggregates. Yeast prion formation is driven primarily by amino acid composition. However, yeast prion domains are generally lacking in the bulky hydrophobic residues most strongly associated with amyloid formation and are instead enriched in glutamines and asparagines. Glutamine/asparagine-rich domains are thought to be involved in both disease-related and beneficial amyloid formation. These domains are overrepresented in eukaryotic genomes, but predictive methods have not yet been developed to efficiently distinguish between prion and nonprion glutamine/asparagine-rich domains. We have developed a novel in vivo assay to quantitatively assess how composition affects prion formation. Using our results, we have defined the compositional features that promote prion formation, allowing us to accurately distinguish between glutamine/asparagine-rich domains that can form prion-like aggregates and those that cannot. Additionally, our results explain why traditional amyloid prediction algorithms fail to accurately predict amyloid formation by the glutamine/asparagine-rich yeast prion domains.

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