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Prion. 2013 Sep-Oct;7(5):369-77. doi: 10.4161/pri.26414. Epub 2013 Sep 10.

Life cycle of cytosolic prions.

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German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE e.V.); Bonn, Germany.
German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE e.V.); Bonn, Germany; Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität; Bonn, Germany.


Prions are self-templating protein aggregates that were originally identified as the causative agent of prion diseases in mammals, but have since been discovered in other kingdoms. Mammalian prions represent a unique class of infectious agents that are composed of misfolded prion protein. Prion proteins usually exist as soluble proteins but can refold and assemble into highly ordered, self-propagating prion polymers. The prion concept is also applicable to a growing number of non-Mendelian elements of inheritance in lower eukaryotes. While prions identified in mammals are clearly pathogens, prions in lower eukaryotes can be either detrimental or beneficial to the host. Prion phenotypes in fungi are transmitted vertically from mother to daughter cells during cell division and horizontally during mating or abortive mating, but extracellular phases have not been reported. Recent findings now demonstrate that in a mammalian cell environment, protein aggregates derived from yeast prion domains exhibit a prion life cycle similar to mammalian prions propagated ex vivo. This life cycle includes a soluble state of the protein, an induction phase by exogenous prion fibrils, stable replication of prion entities, vertical transmission to progeny and natural horizontal transmission to neighboring cells. Our data reveal that mammalian cells contain all co-factors required for cytosolic prion propagation and dissemination. This has important implications for understanding prion-like properties of disease-related protein aggregates. In light of the growing number of identified functional amyloids, cell-to-cell propagation of cytosolic protein conformers might not only be relevant for the spreading of disease-associated proteins, but might also be of more general relevance under non-disease conditions.


Prion; Sup35; amyloid; seeded polymerization

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