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Mol Microbiol. 2012 Nov;86(4):866-81. doi: 10.1111/mmi.12024. Epub 2012 Sep 24.

[PSI(+) ] prion variant establishment in yeast.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60607, USA.


Differences in the clinical pathology of mammalian prion diseases reflect distinct heritable conformations of aggregated PrP proteins, called prion strains. Here, using the yeast [PSI(+) ] prion, we examine the de novo establishment of prion strains (called variants in yeast). The [PSI(+) ] prion protein, Sup35, is efficiently induced to take on numerous prion variant conformations following transient overexpression of Sup35 in the presence of another prion, e.g. [PIN(+) ]. One hypothesis is that the first [PSI(+) ] prion seed to arise in a cell causes propagation of only that seed's variant, but that different variants could be initiated in different cells. However, we now show that even within a single cell, Sup35 retains the potential to fold into more than one variant type. When individual cells segregating different [PSI(+) ] variants were followed in pedigrees, establishment of a single variant phenotype generally occurred in daughters, granddaughters or great-granddaughters - but in 5% of the pedigrees cells continued to segregate multiple variants indefinitely. The data are consistent with the idea that many newly formed prions go through a maturation phase before they reach a single specific variant conformation. These findings may be relevant to mammalian PrP prion strain establishment and adaptation.

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