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Mechanisms of Prion Protein Aggregation

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The prion protein is a cell surface glycoprotein that is converted to a protease resistant abnormal isoform during the course of prion disease. The normal isoform of this protein has been shown to be an antioxidant that aids the survival of neurones. The abnormal isoform is associated with both the transmissible agent of prion diseases and is also toxic. Recent studies have shown that there are multiple end states in terms of aggregation of the protein. Both soluble oligomers and insoluble fibrils can form from the abnormal isoform. Although fibrils are characteristic of the disease, the most infectious prions are associated with oligomers. Neurotoxicity can be associated with fibrils but mostly appears to be due to small aggregates. For many years fibrils were believed to be central to the disease process but currently evidence supports the notion that fibrils represent a ‘bulk’ form of abnormal protein, which is largely inert, but carried along a small active component. This review will examine what is known about the mechanisms behind prion protein aggregation, and the relevance of each form for the disease.

Keywords: Prion; aggregation; fibril; neurotoxicity; oligomer; structure

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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  • Protein & Peptide Letters publishes short papers in all important aspects of protein and peptide research, including structural studies, recombinant expression, function, synthesis, enzymology, immunology, molecular modeling, drug design etc. Manuscripts must have a significant element of novelty, timeliness and urgency that merit rapid publication. Reports of crystallisation, and preliminary structure determinations of biologically important proteins are acceptable. Purely theoretical papers are also acceptable provided they provide new insight into the principles of protein/peptide structure and function.

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