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J Virol. 2017 Jan 3;91(2). pii: e01686-16. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01686-16. Print 2017 Jan 15.

PrP Knockout Cells Expressing Transmembrane PrP Resist Prion Infection.

Author information

1
Rocky Mountain Laboratories, Laboratory of Persistent Viral Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Hamilton, Montana, USA.
2
Research Center for Food Safety, School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.
3
Rocky Mountain Laboratories, Laboratory of Persistent Viral Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Hamilton, Montana, USA geraldsbaron@gmail.com.

Abstract

Glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchoring of the prion protein (PrPC) influences PrPC misfolding into the disease-associated isoform, PrPres, as well as prion propagation and infectivity. GPI proteins are found in cholesterol- and sphingolipid-rich membrane regions called rafts. Exchanging the GPI anchor for a nonraft transmembrane sequence redirects PrPC away from rafts. Previous studies showed that nonraft transmembrane PrPC variants resist conversion to PrPres when transfected into scrapie-infected N2a neuroblastoma cells, likely due to segregation of transmembrane PrPC and GPI-anchored PrPres in distinct membrane environments. Thus, it remained unclear whether transmembrane PrPC might convert to PrPres if seeded by an exogenous source of PrPres not associated with host cell rafts and without the potential influence of endogenous expression of GPI-anchored PrPC To further explore these questions, constructs containing either a C-terminal wild-type GPI anchor signal sequence or a nonraft transmembrane sequence containing a flexible linker were expressed in a cell line derived from PrP knockout hippocampal neurons, NpL2. NpL2 cells have physiological similarities to primary neurons, representing a novel and advantageous model for studying transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) infection. Cells were infected with inocula from multiple prion strains and in different biochemical states (i.e., membrane bound as in brain microsomes from wild-type mice or purified GPI-anchorless amyloid fibrils). Only GPI-anchored PrPC supported persistent PrPres propagation. Our data provide strong evidence that in cell culture GPI anchor-directed membrane association of PrPC is required for persistent PrPres propagation, implicating raft microdomains as a location for conversion.

IMPORTANCE:

Mechanisms of prion propagation, and what makes them transmissible, are poorly understood. Glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) membrane anchoring of the prion protein (PrPC) directs it to specific regions of cell membranes called rafts. In order to test the importance of the raft environment on prion propagation, we developed a novel model for prion infection where cells expressing either GPI-anchored PrPC or transmembrane-anchored PrPC, which partitions it to a different location, were treated with infectious, misfolded forms of the prion protein, PrPres We show that only GPI-anchored PrPC was able to convert to PrPres and able to serially propagate. The results strongly suggest that GPI anchoring and the localization of PrPC to rafts are crucial to the ability of PrPC to propagate as a prion.

KEYWORDS:

GPI; NpL2; PrP; neuron; prion; raft; transmembrane; transmissible spongiform encephalopathy

PMID:
27847358
PMCID:
PMC5215353
DOI:
10.1128/JVI.01686-16
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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