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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Mar 29;108(13):5337-41. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1102762108. Epub 2011 Mar 14.

Suicidal [PSI+] is a lethal yeast prion.

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  • 1Laboratory of Biochemistry and Genetics, National Institute of Diabetes Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-0830, USA.


[PSI(+)] is a prion of the essential translation termination factor Sup35p. Although mammalian prion infections are uniformly fatal, commonly studied [PSI(+)] variants do not impair growth, leading to suggestions that [PSI(+)] may protect against stress conditions. We report here that over half of [PSI(+)] variants are sick or lethal. These "killer [PSI(+)]s" are compatible with cell growth only when also expressing minimal Sup35C, lacking the N-terminal prion domain. The severe detriment of killer [PSI(+)] results in rapid selection of nonkiller [PSI(+)] variants or loss of the prion. We also report variants of [URE3], a prion of the nitrogen regulation protein Ure2p, that grow much slower than ure2Δ cells. Our findings give a more realistic picture of the impact of the prion change than does focus on "mild" prion variants.

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