The new findings, which are being published the week of February 12 in an online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offer significant insights into normal folding mechanisms as well as those that lead to abnormal amyloid fibril conversion. The new insights may lead to the discovery of novel therapeutic targets for neurodegenerative diseases.
Intriguingly, certain prions and amyloids can play beneficial roles. The subject of the new study, Sup35, enables protein-based inheritance in yeast. When this prion protein misfolds, it converts into self-perpetuating amyloid fibrils, thus altering its function in an inheritable manner. The research team used a combination of advanced biophysical methods to investigate these processes.
"By focusing on single unfolded prions, we were able to define the dynamics of two distinct regions or domains that determine conversion dynamics," said Ashok A. Deniz, a Scripps Research scientist who led the study. "Our research techniques can now be used to probe the structures of other amyloidogenic proteins. This could prove important in understanding the basic biology of amyloid formation, as well as in designing strategies against misfolding diseases."
Interestingly, the new study revealed that yeast prion protein Sup35 lacks a specific, static structure in its native collapsed state. Instead, the compact protein fluctuates among several different structures before forming intermediate shapes during the amyloid assembly process.
The intermediate stages of the process are critically important, Deniz noted: "No single native unfolded protein is capable of initiating the amyloid cascade because of this constant shape-shifting. To start the amyloid conversion process, it has to first convert to an intermediate species, consisting of multiple protein molecules. This insight may be important to finding potential new therapeutic targets for disease-causing amyloids."
To define the dynamic structural details of individual prions, Deniz and his colleagues employed several novel technologies including single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (SM-FRET) and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS).
Fluorescence resonance energy transfer is a highly sensitive tool used to measure molecular structure and dynamics such as in single proteins at the angstrom level, a measurement unit used to define molecular distances (a 10th of a millionth of a millimeter). Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy is a high resolution technique that measures time fluctuations in fluorescent emissions from tagged proteins, which provided information about changes in shape of Sup35 taking place on the nanosecond timescale (billionths of seconds).
A third technology, single molecule fluorescence coincidence, was used in an unusual way-to prove that the protein species under scrutiny were not oligomeric (consisting of multiple proteins in an aggregate). The technology, based on measuring fluorescence bursts from individual tagged proteins, enabled the scientists to determine that the proteins being studied were, in fact, single monomers and not aggregates.
Deniz said that future work with yeast prion mutants might resolve some of the questions that remain unanswered. "Our laboratory has spent a great deal of time in improving these techniques, and we have used them to uncover some very intriguing information about this particular monomer," he said. "This combination of techniques can now be used to study other amyloidogenic proteins, including prions, particularly small assemblies and intermediate stages of the aggregation process. These are currently considered the most toxic forms of amyloid-disease associated proteins."
While mammalian prion proteins are different from those of yeast in their amino acid sequence, they do share some basic features, including their ability to catalyze the conversion to amyloid fibers. Some studies suggest that prions may also play key roles in certain critical processes such as long-term memory. Other authors of the study, A Natively Unfolded Yeast Prion Monomer Adopts An Ensemble of Collapsed and Rapidly Fluctuating Structures, are Samrat Mukhopadhyay and Edward A. Lemke of The Scripps Research Institute; and Susan Lindquist and Rajaraman Krishnan of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.
Marisela Chevez | EurekAlert!
Nanoparticle Exposure Can Awaken Dormant Viruses in the Lungs
16.01.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Cholera bacteria infect more effectively with a simple twist of shape
13.01.2017 | Princeton University
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction