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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Nov 29;113(48):13851-13856. Epub 2016 Nov 14.

Amyloid fibrils from the N-terminal prion protein fragment are infectious.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106.
Department of Pathology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106.
Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106;


Recombinant C-terminally truncated prion protein PrP23-144 (which corresponds to the Y145Stop PrP variant associated with a Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker-like prion disease) spontaneously forms amyloid fibrils with a parallel in-register β-sheet architecture and β-sheet core mapping to residues ∼112-139. Here we report that mice (both tga20 and wild type) inoculated with a murine (moPrP23-144) version of these fibrils develop clinical prion disease with a 100% attack rate. Remarkably, even though fibrils in the inoculum lack the entire C-terminal domain of PrP, brains of clinically sick mice accumulate longer proteinase K-resistant (PrPres) fragments of ∼17-32 kDa, similar to those observed in classical scrapie strains. Shorter, Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker-like PrPres fragments are also present. The evidence that moPrP23-144 amyloid fibrils generated in the absence of any cofactors are bona fide prions provides a strong support for the protein-only hypothesis of prion diseases in its pure form, arguing against the notion that nonproteinaceous cofactors are obligatory structural components of all infectious prions. Furthermore, our finding that a relatively short β-sheet core of PrP23-144 fibrils (residues ∼112-139) with a parallel in-register organization of β-strands is capable of seeding the conversion of full-length prion protein to the infectious form has important implications for the ongoing debate regarding structural aspects of prion protein conversion and molecular architecture of mammalian prions.


amyloid; infectivity; prion disease; prions

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