Isolation of infectious, non-fibrillar and oligomeric prions from a genetic prion disease

Ilaria Vanni, Laura Pirisinu, Claudia Acevedo-Morantes, Razieh Kamali-Jamil, Vineet Rathod, Michele Angelo Di Bari, Claudia D'Agostino, Stefano Marcon, Elena Esposito, Geraldina Riccardi, Simone Hornemann, Assunta Senatore (+4 others)
Prions are transmissible agents causing lethal neurodegenerative diseases that are composed of aggregates of misfolded cellular prion protein (PrPSc). Despite non-fibrillar oligomers having been proposed as the most infectious prion particles, prions purified from diseased brains usually consist of large and fibrillar PrPSc aggregates, whose protease-resistant core (PrPres) encompasses the whole Cterminus of PrP. In contrast, PrPSc from Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker disease associated with
more » ... ine to valine substitution at position 117 (GSS-A117V) is characterized by a small protease-resistant core, which is devoid of the C-terminus. We thus aimed to investigate the role of this unusual PrPSc in terms of infectivity, strain characteristics, and structural features. We found, by titration in bank voles, that the infectivity of GSS-A117V is extremely high (109.3 ID50 U/g) and is resistant to treatment with proteinase K (109.0 ID50 U/g). We then purified the proteinase K-resistant GSS-A117V prions and determined the amount of infectivity and PrPres in the different fractions, alongside the morphological characteristics of purified PrPres aggregates by electron microscopy. Purified pellet fractions from GSS-A117V contained the expected N-and C-terminally cleaved 7 kDa PrPres, although the yield of PrPres was low. We found that this low yield depended on the low density/small size of GSS-A117V PrPres, as it was mainly retained in the last supernatant fraction. All fractions were highly infectious, thus confirming the infectious nature of the 7 kDa PrPres, with infectivity levels that directly correlated with the PrPres amount detected. Finally, electron microscopy analysis of these fractions showed no presence of amyloid fibrils, but only very small and indistinct, non-fibrillar PrPresparticles were detected and confirmed to contain PrP via immunogold labelling. Our study demonstrates that purified aggregates of 7 kDa PrPres, spanning residues 90-150, are highly infectious oligomers that encode the biochemical and biological strain features of the original sample. Overall, the autocatalytic behaviour of the prion oligomers reveals their role in the propagation of neurodegeneration in patients with Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker disease and implies that the C-terminus of PrPSc is dispensable for infectivity and strain features for this prion strain, uncovering the central PrP domain as the minimal molecular component able to encode infectious prions. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that non-fibrillar prion particles are highly efficient propagators of disease and provide new molecular and morphological constraints on the structure of infectious prions.
doi:10.5167/uzh-187178 fatcat:juhu5me7fjcu7jbelyen45guqi