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Prion. 2010 Oct-Dec;4(4):244-51. Epub 2010 Oct 12.

Countering amyloid polymorphism and drug resistance with minimal drug cocktails.

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Boston Biomedical Research Institute, Watertown, MA, USA.


Several fatal, progressive neurodegenerative diseases, including various prion and prion-like disorders, are connected with the misfolding of specific proteins. These proteins misfold into toxic oligomeric species and a spectrum of distinct self-templating amyloid structures, termed strains. Hence, small molecules that prevent or reverse these protein-misfolding events might have therapeutic utility. Yet it is unclear whether a single small molecule can antagonize the complete repertoire of misfolded forms encompassing diverse amyloid polymorphs and soluble oligomers. We have begun to investigate this issue using the yeast prion protein Sup35 as an experimental paradigm. We have discovered that a polyphenol, (-)epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), effectively inhibited the formation of infectious amyloid forms (prions) of Sup35 and even remodeled preassembled prions. Surprisingly, EGCG selectively modulated specific prion strains and even selected for EGCG-resistant prion strains with novel structural and biological characteristics. Thus, treatment with a single small molecule antagonist of amyloidogenesis can select for novel, drug-resistant amyloid polymorphs. Importantly, combining EGCG with another small molecule, 4,5-bis-(4-methoxyanilino)phthalimide, synergistically antagonized and remodeled a wide array of Sup35 prion strains without producing any drug-resistant prions. We suggest that minimal drug cocktails, small collections of drugs that collectively antagonize all amyloid polymorphs, should be identified to besiege various neurodegenerative disorders.

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