Conversion of PrP to a Self-Perpetuating PrPSc-like Conformation in the Cytosol

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Science  29 Nov 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5599, pp. 1785-1788
DOI: 10.1126/science.1073619

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A rare conformation of the prion protein, PrPSc, is found only in mammals with transmissible prion diseases and represents either the infectious agent itself or a major component of it. The mechanism for initiating PrPSc formation is unknown. We report that PrP retrogradely transported out of the endoplasmic reticulum produced both amorphous aggregates and a PrPSc-like conformation in the cytosol. The distribution between these forms correlated with the rate of appearance in the cytosol. Once conversion to the PrPSc-like conformation occurred, it was sustained. Thus, PrP has an inherent capacity to promote its own conformational conversion in mammalian cells. These observations might explain the origin of PrPSc.

  • * Present address: Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: lindquist_admin{at}

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