Roles of protein sequence and cell environment in cross-species prion transmission and amyloid interference

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Bruce, Kathryn Lyn
Chernoff, Yury O.
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Proteinaceous infectious particles, termed 'prions' are self-perpetuating protein isoforms that transmit neurodegenerative diseases in mammals and phenotypic traits in yeast. Each conformational variant of a prion protein is faithfully propagated to a homologous protein in the same cell environment. However, a reduction in the efficiency of prion transmission between different species is often observed and is termed "species barrier". Prion transmission to a heterologous protein may, in some cases, permanently change the structure of the prion variant, and divergent proteins may interfere with prion propagation in a species-specific manner. To identify the importance of both protein sequence and the cell environment on prion interference and cross-species transmission, we employed heterologous Sup35 proteins from three Saccharomyces sensu stricto species: Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Sc), Saccharomyces paradoxus (Sp), and Saccharomyces bayanus (Sb). We performed our experiments in two different cell environments (Sc and Sp). Our data show that Sup35 from one species can form a prion in another, and we employed a transfection procedure to perform cross-species transfer of the prion. Using a shuffle procedure, we demonstrate that the specificity of prion transmission is determined by the protein itself rather than the cell environment. Interestingly, we noted that variant-specific prion patterns can be altered irreversibly during cross-species transmission through S. bayanus module II. We further show that prion interference does not always correlate with cross-species prion transmission, and the identity of particular regions or even a specific amino acid, rather than the overall level of PrD homology is crucial for determining cross-species transmission and interference. Lastly we provide evidence to suggest that prion interference is specific to the cell environment.
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