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Mammalian prion protein suppresses Bax-induced cell death in yeast.

Li A., Harris D.A.

Several lines of evidence suggest that PrP(C), the non-infectious form of the prion protein, may function to protect neurons and other cells from stress or toxicity. In this paper, we report on the use of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model system to assay the cytoprotective activity of PrP(C). The mammalian pro-apoptotic protein, Bax, confers a lethal phenotype when expressed in yeast. Since overexpression of PrP(C) has been found to prevent Bax-mediated cell death in cultured human neurons, we explored whether PrP could also suppress Bax-induced cell death in yeast. We utilized a form of mouse PrP containing a modified signal peptide that we had previously shown is efficiently targeted to the secretory pathway in yeast. We found that this PrP potently suppressed the death of yeast cells expressing mammalian Bax under control of a galactose-inducible promoter. In contrast, cytosolic PrP-(23-231) failed to rescue growth of Bax-expressing yeast, indicating that protective activity requires targeting of PrP to the secretory pathway. Deletion of the octapeptide repeat region did not affect the rescuing activity of PrP, but deletion of a charged region encompassing residues 23-31 partially eliminated activity. We also tested several PrP mutants associated with human familial prion diseases and found that only a mutant containing nine extra octapeptide repeats failed to suppress Bax-induced cell death. These findings establish a simple and genetically tractable system for assaying a putative biological activity of PrP(C).

J. Biol. Chem. 280:17430-17434(2005) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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