PLoS One 2011 8;6(7):e21953. Epub 2011 Jul 8.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, United States of America.
[PSI(+)], the prion form of the yeast Sup35 protein, results from the structural conversion of Sup35 from a soluble form into an infectious amyloid form. The infectivity of prions is thought to result from chaperone-dependent fiber cleavage that breaks large prion fibers into smaller, inheritable propagons. Like the mammalian prion protein PrP, Sup35 contains an oligopeptide repeat domain. Deletion analysis indicates that the oligopeptide repeat domain is critical for [PSI(+)] propagation, while a distinct region of the prion domain is responsible for prion nucleation. The PrP oligopeptide repeat domain can substitute for the Sup35 oligopeptide repeat domain in supporting [PSI(+)] propagation, suggesting a common role for repeats in supporting prion maintenance. However, randomizing the order of the amino acids in the Sup35 prion domain does not block prion formation or propagation, suggesting that amino acid composition is the primary determinant of Sup35's prion propensity. Thus, it is unclear what role the oligopeptide repeats play in [PSI(+)] propagation: the repeats could simply act as a non-specific spacer separating the prion nucleation domain from the rest of the protein; the repeats could contain specific compositional elements that promote prion propagation; or the repeats, while not essential for prion propagation, might explain some unique features of [PSI(+)]. Here, we test these three hypotheses and show that the ability of the Sup35 and PrP repeats to support [PSI(+)] propagation stems from their amino acid composition, not their primary sequences. Furthermore, we demonstrate that compositional requirements for the repeat domain are distinct from those of the nucleation domain, indicating that prion nucleation and propagation are driven by distinct compositional features.