Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The flexible tail of the prion protein poisons brain cells

01.08.2013
For decades, there has been no answer to the question of why the altered prion protein is poisonous to brain cells.

Neuropathologists from the University of Zurich and University Hospital Zurich have now shown that it is the flexible tail of the prion protein that triggers cell death. These findings have far-reaching consequences: only those antibodies that target the tail of the prion protein are suitable as potential drugs for combating prion diseases.

Prion proteins are the infectious pathogens that cause Mad Cow Disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. They occur when a normal prion protein becomes deformed and clumped. The naturally occurring prion protein is harmless and can be found in most organisms. In humans, it is found in our brain cell membrane. By contrast, the abnormally deformed prion protein is poisonous for the brain cells.

Adriano Aguzzi, Professor of Neuropathology at the University of Zurich and University Hospital Zurich, has spent many years exploring why this deformation is poisonous. Aguzzi’s team has now discovered that the prion protein has a kind of «switch» that controls its toxicity. This switch covers a tiny area on the surface of the protein. If another molecule, for example an antibody, touches this switch, a lethal mechanism is triggered that can lead to very fast cell death.

Flexible tail induces cell death

In the current edition of «Nature», the scientists demonstrate that the prion protein molecule comprises two functionally distinct parts: a globular domain, which is tethered to the cell membrane, and a long and unstructured tail. Under normal conditions, this tail is very important in order to maintain the functioning of nerve cells. By contrast, in the case of a prion infection the pathogenic prion protein interacts with the globular part and the tail causes cell death – this is the hypothesis put forward by the researchers.

Aguzzi and his team tested this by generating mimetic antibodies in tissue sections from the cerebellum of mice which have a similar toxicity to that of a prion infection. The researchers found that these antibodies tripped the switch of the prion protein. «Prion proteins with a trimmed version of the flexible tail can, however, no longer damage the brain cells, even if their switch has been recognized by antibodies», explains Adriano Aguzzi. «This flexible tail is responsible for causing cell death.» If the tail is bound and made inaccessible using a further antibody, activation of the switch can likewise no longer trigger cell death.

«Our discovery has far-reaching consequences for understanding prion diseases», says Aguzzi. The findings reveal that only those antibodies that target the prion protein tail are suitable for use as potential drugs. By contrast, antibodies that trip the switch of the prion are very harmful and dangerous.

Literature:
Tiziana Sonati, Regina R. Reimann, Jeppe Falsig, Pravas Kumar Baral, Tracy O’Connor, Simone Hornemann, Sine Yaganoglu, Bei Li, Uli S. Herrmann, Barbara Wieland, Mridula Swayampakula, Muhammad Hafizur Rahman, Dipankar Das, Nat Kav, Roland Riek, Pawel P. Liberski, Michael N. G. James, and Adriano Aguzzi. The flexible tail of the prion protein mediates the toxicity of antiprion antibodies. Nature. July 31, 2013. Doi: 10.1038/nature12402
Contacts:
Prof. Adriano Aguzzi
Institute of Neuropathology
University of Zurich
Phone: +41 44 255 21 07
E-mail: adriano.aguzzi@usz.ch
Weitere Informationen:
http://www.mediadesk.uzh.ch/articles/2013/der-flexible-schweif-des-prions-vergiftet-hirnzellen_en.html

– News release of the University of Zurich in English, including video

http://www.mediadesk.uzh.ch/articles/2013/der-flexible-schweif-des-prions-vergiftet-hirnzellen.html

– News release of the University of Zurich in German, including video

Beat Müller | Universität Zürich
Further information:
http://www.usz.ch

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Two Group A Streptococcus genes linked to 'flesh-eating' bacterial infections
25.09.2017 | University of Maryland

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Highest-energy cosmic rays have extragalactic origin

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Two Group A Streptococcus genes linked to 'flesh-eating' bacterial infections

25.09.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA'S OSIRIS-REx spacecraft slingshots past Earth

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>