PerspectiveCell Biology

Sowing the Protein Seeds of Prion Propagation

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Science  28 Jul 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5479, pp. 556-557
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5479.556

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Ever since Prusiner first proposed his radical "protein-only" hypothesis to explain how certain infectious proteins (prions) are transmitted from one mammal to another in the absence of DNA or RNA, scientists have been trying to prove him right (or wrong). The study of mammalian prions, such as those causing Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, scrapie in sheep and mad cow disease in cattle, has been slow to yield answers. However, as Tuite discusses in his Perspective, the Sup35p and Ure2p proteins of yeast that exist in both normal and infectious forms are providing evidence that the "protein-only" hypothesis may be right ( Sparrer et al.).