Insoluble aggregates and protease-resistant conformers of prion protein in uninfected human brains

J. Yuan, X. Xiao, John McGeehan, Z. Dong, I. Cali, H. Fujioka, Q. Kong, Geoff Kneale, P. Gambetti, W. Zou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aggregated prion protein (PrPSc), which is detergent-insoluble and partially proteinase K (PK)-resistant, constitutes the major component of infectious prions that cause a group of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in animals and humans. PrPSc derives from a detergent-soluble and PK-sensitive cellular prion protein (PrPC) through an α-helix to β-sheet transition. This transition confers on the PrPSc molecule unique physicochemical and biological properties, including insolubility in nondenaturing detergents, an enhanced tendency to form aggregates, resistance to PK digestion, and infectivity, which together are regarded as the basis for distinguishing PrPSc from PrPC. Here we demonstrate, using sedimentation and size exclusion chromatography, that small amounts of detergent-insoluble PrP aggregates are present in uninfected human brains. Moreover, PK-resistant PrP core fragments are detectable following PK treatment. This is the first study that provides experimental evidence supporting the hypothesis that there might be silent prions lying dormant in normal human brains.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34848-34858
Number of pages11
JournalThe Journal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number46
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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