N-terminal prion protein peptides (PrP(120-144)) form parallel in-register β-sheets via multiple nucleation-dependent pathways

Yiming Wang, Qing Shao, Carol K. Hall

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23 Scopus citations


The prion diseases are a family of fatal neurodegenerative diseases associated with the misfolding and accumulation of normal prion protein (PrPC) into its pathogenic scrapie form (PrPSc). Understanding the fundamentals of prion protein aggregation and the molecular architecture of PrPSc is key to unraveling the pathology of prion diseases. Our work investigates the early-stage aggregation of three prion protein peptides, corresponding to residues 120-144 of human (Hu), bank vole (BV), and Syrian hamster (SHa) prion protein, from disordered monomers to β-sheet-rich fibrillar structures. Using 12 μs discontinuous molecular dynamics simulations combined with the PRIME20 force field, we find that the Hu-, BV-, and SHaPrP(120-144) aggregate via multiple nucleation-dependent pathways to form U-shaped, S-shaped, and Ω-shaped protofilaments. The S-shaped HuPrP(120-144) protofilament is similar to the amyloid core structure of HuPrP(112-141) predicted by Zweckstetter. HuPrP(120-144) has a shorter aggregation lag phase than BVPrP(120-144) followed by SHaPrP(120-144), consistent with experimental findings. Two amino acid substitutions I138M and I139M retard the formation of parallel in-register β-sheet dimers during the nucleation stage by increasing side chain-side chain association and reducing side chain interaction specificity. On average, HuPrP(120-144) aggregates contain more parallel β-sheet content than those formed by BV- and SHaPrP(120-144). Deletion of the C-terminal residues 138-144 prevents formation of fibrillar structures in agreement with the experiment. This work sheds light on the amyloid core structures underlying prion strains and how I138M, I139M, and S143N affect prion protein aggregation kinetics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22093-22105
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 14 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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