Toxicity and Infectivity: Insights from De Novo Prion Formation

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Current Genetics

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Prions are infectious misfolded proteins that assemble into oligomers and large aggregates, and are associated with neurodegeneration. It is believed that the oligomers contribute to cytotoxicity, although genetic and environmental factors have also been shown to have additional roles. The study of the yeast prion [PSI +] has provided valuable insights into how prions form and why they are toxic. Our recent work suggests that SDS-resistant oligomers arise and remodel early during the prion formation process, and lysates containing these newly formed oligomers are infectious. Previous work shows that toxicity is associated with prion formation and this toxicity is exacerbated by deletion of the VPS5 gene. Here, we show that newly made oligomer formation and infectivity of vps5∆ lysates are similar to wild-type strains. However using green fluorescent protein fusions, we observe that the assembly of fluorescent cytoplasmic aggregates during prion formation is different in vps5∆ strains. Instead of large immobile aggregates, vps5∆ strains have an additional population of small mobile foci. We speculate that changes in the cellular milieu in vps5∆ strains may reduce the cell’s ability to efficiently recruit and sequester newly formed prion particles into central deposition sites, resulting in toxicity.


Current Genetics, Vol. 64, No. 1, (February 2018): 117-123. DOI.