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Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2013 Apr;20(4):495-501. doi: 10.1038/nsmb.2503. Epub 2013 Feb 24.

Characterization of prion-like conformational changes of the neuronal isoform of Aplysia CPEB.

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Department of Neuroscience, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA.


The neuronal isoform of cytoplasmic polyadenylation element-binding protein (CPEB) is a regulator of local protein synthesis at synapses and is critical in maintaining learning-related synaptic plasticity in Aplysia. Previous studies indicate that the function of Aplysia CPEB can be modulated by conversion to a stable prion-like state, thus contributing to the stabilization of long-term memory on a molecular level. Here, we used biophysical methods to demonstrate that Aplysia CPEB, like other prions, undergoes a conformational switch from soluble α-helix-rich oligomer to β-sheet-rich fiber in vitro. Solid-state NMR analyses of the fibers indicated a relatively rigid N-terminal prion domain. The fiber form of Aplysia CPEB showed enhanced binding to target mRNAs as compared to the soluble form. Consequently, we propose a model for the Aplysia CPEB fibers that may have relevance for functional prions in general.

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