Covalent prion modifications

Structural studies of the scrapie prion protein using mass spectrometry and amino acid sequencing.

N. Stahl, M. A. Baldwin, D. B. Teplow, L. Hood, B. W. Gibson, A. L. Burlingame & S. B. Prusiner
Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco 94143. 
Biochemistry 32: 1991-2002 (1993)  [93192259] 
The only component of the infectious scrapie prion identified to date is a protein designated PrPSc. A posttranslational process converts the cellular PrP isoform (PrPC) into PrPSc. Denatured PrPSc was digested with endoproteases, and the resulting fragments were isolated by HPLC. By both mass spectrometry and Edman sequencing, the primary structure of PrPSc was found to be the same as that deduced from the PrP gene sequence, arguing that neither RNA editing nor protein splicing feature in the synthesis of PrPSc. Mass spectrometry also was used to search for posttranslational chemical modifications other than the glycosylinositol phospholipid anchor attached to the C-terminus and two Asn-linked oligosaccharides already known to occur on both PrPSc and PrPC. These results contend that PrPSc molecules do not differ from PrPC at the level of an amino acid substitution or a posttranslational chemical modification; however, we cannot eliminate the possibility that a small fraction of PrPSc is modified by an as yet unidentified posttranslational process or that PrPC carries a modification that is removed in the formation of PrPSc. It seems likely that PrPSc differs from PrPC in its secondary and tertiary structure, but the possibility of a tightly bound, disease-specific molecule which purifies with PrPSc must also be considered.

Prions and prion proteins.

N. Stahl & S. B. Prusiner
Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0518. 
FASEB J 5: 2799-807 (1991) [92008960] 
Neurodegenerative diseases of animals and humans including scrapie, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are caused by unusual infectious pathogens called prions. There is no evidence for a nucleic acid in the prion, but diverse experimental results indicate that a host-derived protein called PrPSc is a component of the infectious particle. Experiments with scrapie-infected cultured cells show that PrPSc is derived from a normal cellular protein called PrPC through an unknown posttranslational process. We have analyzed the amino acid sequence and posttranslational modifications of PrPSc and its proteolytically truncated core PrP 27-30 to identify potential candidate modifications that could distinguish PrPSc from PrPC. The amino acid sequence of PrP 27-30 corresponds to that predicted from the gene and cDNA.

Mass spectrometry of peptides derived from PrPSc has revealed numerous modifications including two N-linked carbohydrate moieties, removal of an amino-terminal signal sequence, and alternative COOH termini. Most molecules contain a glycosylinositol phospholipid (GPI) attached at Ser-231 that results in removal of 23 amino acids from the COOH terminus, whereas 15% of the protein molecules are truncated to end at Gly-228. The structure of the GPI from PrPSc has been analyzed and found to be novel, including the presence of sialic acid. Other experiments suggest that the N-linked oligosaccharides are not necessary for PrPSc formation. Although detailed comparison of PrPSc with PrPC is required, there is no obvious way in which any of the modifications might confer upon PrPSc its unusual physical properties and allow it to act as a component of the prion. If no chemical difference is found between PrPC and PrPSc, then the two isoforms of the prion protein may differ only in their conformations or by the presence of bound cellular components.


Acquisition of protease resistance by prion proteins in scrapie-infected cells does not require asparagine-linked glycosylation.

A. Taraboulos, M. Rogers, D. R. Borchelt, M. P. McKinley, M. Scott, D. Serban & S. B. Prusiner
Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco 94143. 
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 87: 8262-6 (1990) [91045977] 
The scrapie and cellular isoforms of the prion protein (PrPSc and PrPC) differ strikingly in a number of their biochemical and metabolic properties. The structural features underlying these differences are unknown, but they are thought to result from a posttranslational process. Both PrP isoforms contain complex type oligosaccharides, raising the possibility that differences in the asparagine-linked glycosylation account for the properties that distinguish PrPC and PrPSc. ScN2a and ScHaB cells in culture produce several PrP molecules with relative molecular masses of 26-35 kDa and proteinase K-resistant cores of 19-29 kDa. When the cells were treated with tunicamycin, this heterogeneity was eliminated and a single PrP species of 26 kDa was observed.

Several hours after its synthesis, a fraction of this protein became insoluble in detergents and acquired a proteinase K-resistant core, thus displaying two of the biochemical hallmarks of PrPSc. Synthesis in the presence of tunicamycin restricted the proteinase K-resistant cores of PrP to a single species of 19 kDa. No proteinase K-resistant PrP was found in uninfected cells. Expression of a mutated PrP gene lacking both asparagine-linked glycosylation sites in ScN2a cells resulted in the synthesis of 19-kDa proteinase K-resistant PrP molecules. We conclude that asparagine-linked glycosylation is not essential for the synthesis of proteinase K-resistant PrP and that structural differences unrelated to asparagine-linked oligosaccharides must exist between PrPC and PrPSc. Whether unglycosylated PrPSc molecules are associated with scrapie prion infectivity remains to be established.


Diversity of oligosaccharide structures linked to asparagines of the scrapie prion protein.

T. Endo, D. Groth, S. B. Prusiner & A. Kobata
Department of Biochemistry, University of Tokyo, Japan. 
Biochemistry 28: 8380-8 (1989) [90105353] 
Prion proteins from humans and rodents contain two consensus sites for asparagine-linked glycosylation near their C-termini. The asparagine-linked oligosaccharides of the scrapie isoform of the hamster prion protein (PrP 27-30) were released quantitatively from the purified molecule by hydrazinolysis followed by N-acetylation and NaB3H4 reduction. The radioactive oligosaccharides were fractionated into one neutral and three acidic oligosaccharide fractions by anion-exchange column chromatography. All oligosaccharides in the acidic fractions could be converted to neutral oligosaccharides by sialidase digestion.

Structural studies on these oligosaccharides including sequential exoglycosidase digestion in combination with methylation analysis revealed that PrP 27-30 contains a mixture of bi-, tri-, and tetraantennary complex-type sugar chains with Man alpha 1----6(GlcNAc beta 1----4)(Man alpha 1----3)Man beta 1----4GlcNAc beta 1----4-(Fuc alpha 1----6)GlcNAc as their core. Variation is produced by the different combination of the oligosaccharides Gal beta 1----4GlcNAc beta 1----, Gal beta 1----4(Fuc alpha 1----3)GlcNAc beta 1----, GlcNAc beta 1----, Sia alpha 2----3Gal beta 1----4GlcNAc beta 1----, and Sia alpha 2----6Gal beta 1----4GlcNAc beta 1---- in their outer chain moieties. When both asparagine-linked consensus sites are glycosylated, the diversity of oligosaccharide structures yields over 400 different forms of the scrapie prion protein. Whether these diverse asparagine-linked oligosaccharides participate in scrapie prion infectivity or modify the function of the cellular prion protein remains to be established.


Asparagine-linked glycosylation of the scrapie and cellular prion proteins.

T. Haraguchi, S. Fisher, S. Olofsson, T. Endo, D. Groth, A. Tarentino, D. R. Borchelt, D. Teplow, L. Hood, A. Burlingame & ...
Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco 94143. 
Arch Biochem Biophys 274: 1-13 (1989) [89372921] 
Post-translational modification of the scrapie prion protein (PrP) is thought to account for the unusual features of this protein. Molecular cloning of a PrP cDNA identified two potential Asn-linked glycosylation sites. Both the scrapie (PrPSc) and cellular (PrPC) isoforms were susceptible to digestion by peptide N-glycosidase F (PNGase F) but resistant to endoglycosidase H as measured by migration in sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. PNGase F digestion of PrPC yielded two proteins of Mr26K and 28K; however, the 26-k species was only a minor component. In contrast, PNGase F digestion of PrPSc yielded equimolar amounts of two proteins of Mr26K and 28K. The significance of this altered stoichiometry between the 26- and 28-kDa deglycosylated forms of PrP during scrapie infection remains to be established.

Both isoforms as well as PrP 27-30, which is produced by limited proteolysis of PrPSc, exhibited a reduced number of charge isomers after PNGase F digestion. The molecular weight of PrP 27-30 was reduced from 27K-30K by PNGase F digestion to 20K-22K while anhydrous hydrogen fluoride or trifluoromethanesulfonic acid treatment reduced the molecular weight to 19K-21K and 20K-22K, respectively. Denatured PrP 27-30 was radioiodinated and then assessed for its binding to lectin columns. PrP 27-30 was bound to wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) or lentil lectins and eluted with N-acetylglucosamine or alpha-methyl-mannoside, respectively. Digestion of PrP 27-30 with sialidase prevented its binding to WGA but enhanced its binding to Ricinus communis lectin.

These findings argue that PrP 27-30 probably possesses Asn-linked, complex oligosaccharides with terminal sialic acids, penultimate galactoses, and fucose residues attached to the innermost N-acetyl-glucosamine. Whether differences in Asn-linked oligosaccharide structure between PrPC and PrPSc exist and are responsible for the distinct properties displayed by these two isoforms remain to be established.


Intracellular accumulation of the cellular prion protein after mutagenesis of its Asn-linked glycosylation sites.

M. Rogers, A. Taraboulos, M. Scott, D. Groth & S. B. Prusiner
Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco 94143. 
Glycobiology 1: 101-9 (1990) [92369621] 
The cellular isoform of the prion protein (PrPC) is a sialoglycoprotein bound almost exclusively on the external surface of the plasma membrane by a glycosyl phosphatidylinositol anchor. The deduced amino acid sequence of Syrian hamster PrPC identifies two potential sites for the addition of Asn-linked carbohydrates at amino acids 181-183 (Asn-Ile-Thr) and 197-199 (Asn-Phe-Thr). We have altered these sites by replacing the threonine residues with alanine and expressed the mutant proteins transiently in CV1 cells utilizing a mutagenesis vector with the T7 promoter located upstream from the PrP gene. The T7 RNA polymerase was supplied by infection with a recombinant vaccinia virus.

The 3 mutant proteins (PrPAla183, PrPAla199 and PrPAla183/199) have a reduced relative molecular weight compared to wild-type (wt) PrP. Deglycosylation as well as synthesis in the presence of tunicamycin reduced the relative molecular weight of all the PrP species to that of the double mutant PrPAla183/199. Our results indicate that both single-site mutant prion proteins are glycosylated at non-mutated sites and they suggest that both potential sites for Asn-linked glycosylation are utilized in wt PrPC. Immunofluorescence studies demonstrate that while wt PrPC localizes to the cell surface, all the mutant PrP molecules accumulate intracellularly. The site of accumulation of PrPAla183 is probably prior to the mid-Golgi stack since this protein does not acquire resistance to endoglycosidase H. Whether the intracellular locations of the mutant PrPC species are the same as those identified for the scrapie isoform of the prion protein (PrPSc) remains to be established.


Epitope mapping of the Syrian hamster prion protein utilizing chimeric and mutant genes in a vaccinia virus expression system.

M. Rogers, D. Serban, T. Gyuris, M. Scott, T. Torchia & S. B. Prusiner
Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco 94143. 
J Immunol 147: 3568-74 (1991) [92043730] 
The cellular prion protein (PrPc) is a host-encoded sialoglycoprotein bound to the external surface of the cell membrane by a glycosyl phosphatidylinositol anchor. A posttranslationally modified PrP isoform (PrPSc) is a component of the infectious particle causing scrapie and the other prion diseases. mAb have been raised against the protease-resistant core of Syrian hamster (SHa) PrPSc designated PrP 27-30. To map the epitopes within PrP reacting to these antibodies, we have expressed wild-type, chimeric mouse (Mo)/SHa and mutant MoPrP genes using recombinant vaccinia virus systems. The fidelity of the expression of recombinant PrPC was examined using vaccinia viruses expressing SHa-PrPC. It is full length, possesses Asn-linked carbohydrates and is attached to the external surface of the cell membrane by a glycosyl phosphatidylinositol anchor that is sensitive to cleavage by phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C.

We have tested 18 mAb for their ability to bind to chimeric prion proteins on immunoblots. Three distinct epitopes were identified that mapped to amino acid differences between SHa and MoPrP sequences. The first epitope, recognized by three of the antibodies tested, was defined by methionines at amino acids 108 and 111 in the mouse protein. The second epitope was dependent upon the presence of asparagines at positions 154 and 174 in MoPrP and was recognized by four of the antibodies tested. The third epitope mapped to a single amino acid substitution at residue 138 in MoPrP. mAb raised against SHaPrP 27-30 specific for this epitope are able to bind MoPrPC which has a single amino acid change (Ile to Met) at position 138. Eleven of the 18 antibodies tested mapped to this immunodominant epitope. It is located within a postulated amphipathic helix, a structure associated with immunodominant Ag. Inasmuch as PrPC, in its native form on the cell surface, is detected by the mAb 13A5 (a prototypic antibody of the immunodominant third epitope class), it is likely that this epitope is accessible in the native conformation of this protein.


Scrapie PrP 27-30 is a sialoglycoprotein.

D. C. Bolton, R. K. Meyer & S. B. Prusiner
J Virol 53: 596-606 (1985) [85108153] 
The major scrapie prion protein, designated PrP 27-30, exhibited both charge and size heterogeneity after purification from infected hamster brains. Eight or more discrete charge isomers of PrP 27-30 with isoelectric points ranging from approximately pH 4.6 to 7.9 were found by using non-equilibrium pH gradient electrophoresis in the first dimension followed by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis in the second dimension. The charge isomers were detected by silver staining as well as by radioiodination. The procedures used to disaggregate PrP 27-30 before electrophoresis in the first dimension do not appear to be responsible for the charge heterogeneity. However, heating PrP 27-30 to 100 degrees C for 15 min in 0.1 N NaOH or 0.1 N HCl resulted in modification of the protein and alteration of its electrophoretic pattern. A PrP 27-30 fragment (molecular weight, 17,100 to 21,900) obtained by cyanogen bromide cleavage also exhibited charge and size heterogeneity. Periodic acid-Schiff staining of PrP 27-30 electrophoresed into sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gels demonstrated that carbohydrate residues are attached to the protein. Digestion of PrP 27-30 with neuraminidase and endo-beta-N-acetylglucosaminidase H resulted in significant changes in the isoelectric pH of PrP 27-30 isomers, whereas digestion with alkaline phosphatase had no effect. Our results demonstrate that PrP 27-30 is a sialoglycoprotein; this is consistent with several properties of this protein and of the scrapie prion.