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D'Angelo P.,University of Rome La Sapienza | Della Longa S.,University of LAquila | Arcovito A.,Catholic University of the Sacred Heart | Mancini G.,CASPUR | And 9 more authors.

Prion diseases are a class of fatal neurodegenerative disorders characterized by brain spongiosis, synaptic degeneration, microglia and astrocytes activation, neuronal loss and altered redox control. These maladies can be sporadic, iatrogenic and genetic. The etiological agent is the prion, a misfolded form of the cellular prion protein, PrPC. PrPC interacts with metal ions, in particular copper and zinc, through the octarepeat and non-octarepeat binding sites. The physiological implication of this interaction is still unclear, as is the role of metals in the conversion. Since prion diseases present metal dyshomeostasis and increased oxidative stress, we described the copper-binding site located in the human C-terminal domain of PrP-HuPrP(90-231), both in the wild-type protein and in the protein carrying the pathological mutation Q212P. We used the synchrotron-based X-ray absorption fine structure technique to study the Cu(II) and Cu(I) coordination geometries in the mutant, and we compared them with those obtained using the wild-type protein. By analyzing the extended X-ray absorption fine structure and the X-ray absorption near-edge structure, we highlighted changes in copper coordination induced by the point mutation Q212P in both oxidation states. While in the wild-type protein the copper-binding site has the same structure for both Cu(II) and Cu(I), in the mutant the coordination site changes drastically from the oxidized to the reduced form of the copper ion. Copper-binding sites in the mutant resemble those obtained using peptides, confirming the loss of short- and long-range interactions. These changes probably cause alterations in copper homeostasis and, consequently, in redox control. © 2012 American Chemical Society. Source

Amenitsch H.,University of Graz | Benetti F.,International School for Advanced Studies | Benetti F.,European Center for the Sustainable Impact of Nanotechnology | Ramos A.,University of Santiago de Compostela | And 2 more authors.

A sample of purified Syrian hamster PrP27-30 prion fibers was analyzed by synchrotron small-angle X-ray scattering (SA XS). The SA XS pattern obtained was fitted to a model based on infinitely long cylinders with a log-normal intensity distribution, a hard-sphere structure factor and a general Porod term for larger aggregates. The diameter calculated for the cylinders determined from the fit was 11.0 ± 0.2 nm. This measurement offers an estimation of the diameter of PrPSc fibers in suspension, i.e., free of errors derived from estimations based on 2D projections in transmission electron microscopy images, subjected to further possible distortions from the negative stain. This diameter, which corresponds to a maximum diameter of approximately 5.5 nm for each of the two intertwined protofilaments making up the fibers, rules out the possibility that PrPSc conforms to a stack of in-register, single-rung flat PrPSc monomers; rather, PrPSc subunits must necessarily coil, most likely several times, into themselves. © 2013 Landes Bioscience. Source

Gasperini L.,International School for Advanced Studies | Meneghetti E.,International School for Advanced Studies | Pastore B.,International School for Advanced Studies | Benetti F.,International School for Advanced Studies | And 3 more authors.
Antioxidants and Redox Signaling

Aims: Several neurodegenerative disorders show alterations in glutamatergic synapses and increased susceptibility to excitotoxicity. Mounting evidence suggests a central role for the cellular prion protein (PrPC) in neuroprotection. Therefore, the loss of PrPC function occurring in prion disorders may contribute to the disease progression and neurodegeneration. Indeed, PrPC modulates N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors (NMDAR), thus preventing cell death. In this study, we show that PrPC and copper cooperatively inhibit NMDAR through S-nitrosylation, a post-translational modification resulting from the chemical reaction of nitric oxide (NO) with cysteines. Results: Comparing wild-type Prnp (Prnp+/+) and PrPC knockout (Prnp0/0) mouse hippocampi, we found that GluN1 and GluN2A S-nitrosylation decrease in Prnp0/0. Using organotypic hippocampal cultures, we found that copper chelation decreases NMDAR S-nitrosylation in Prnp+/+ but not in Prnp0/0. This suggests that PrPC requires copper to support the chemical reaction between NO and thiols. We explored PrPC-Cu neuroprotective role by evaluating neuron susceptibility to excitotoxicity in Prnp+/+ and Prnp0/0 cultures. We found that (i) PrPC-Cu modulates GluN2A-containing NMDAR, those inhibited by S-nitrosylation; (ii) PrPC and copper are interdependent to protect neurons from insults; (iii) neuronal NO synthase inhibition affects susceptibility in wild-type but not in Prnp0/0, while (iv) the addition of a NO donor enhances Prnp0/0 neurons survival. Innovation and Conclusions: Our results show that PrPC and copper support NMDAR S-nitrosylation and cooperatively exert neuroprotection. In addition to NMDAR, PrPC may also favor the S-nitrosylation of other proteins. Therefore, this mechanism may be investigated in the context of the different cellular processes in which PrPC is involved. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 22, 772-784. Copyright © 2015, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Source

Agostini F.,International School for Advanced Studies | Agostini F.,Catholic University of Leuven | Dotti C.G.,Catholic University of Leuven | Perez-Canamas A.,Centro Biologia Molecular Severo Ochoa CSIC UAM | And 6 more authors.

The cellular form of the prion protein (PrPC) is a normal constituent of neuronal cell membranes. The protein misfolding causes rare neurodegenerative disorders known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or prion diseases. These maladies can be sporadic, genetic or infectious. Sporadic prion diseases are the most common form mainly affecting aging people. In this work, we investigate the biochemical environment in which sporadic prion diseases may develop, focusing our attention on the cell membrane of neurons in the aging brain. It is well established that with aging the ratio between the most abundant lipid components of rafts undergoes a major change: while cholesterol decreases, sphingomyelin content rises. Our results indicate that the aging process modifies the compartmentalization of PrPC. In old mice, this change favors PrPC accumulation in detergent-resistant membranes, particularly in hippocampi. To confirm the relationship between lipid content changes and PrPC translocation into detergent-resistant membranes (DRMs), we looked at PrPC compartmentalization in hippocampi from acid sphingomyelinase (ASM) knockout (KO) mice and synaptosomes enriched in sphingomyelin. In the presence of high sphingomyelin content, we observed a significant increase of PrPC in DRMS. This process is not due to higher levels of total protein and it could, in turn, favor the onset of sporadic prion diseases during aging as it increases the PrP intermolecular contacts into lipid rafts. We observed that lowering sphingomyelin in scrapie-infected cells by using fumonisin B1 led to a 50% decrease in protease-resistant PrP formation. This may suggest an involvement of PrP lipid environment in prion formation and consequently it may play a role in the onset or development of sporadic forms of prion diseases. © 2013 Agostini et al. Source

Benetti F.,International School for Advanced Studies | Benetti F.,European Center for the Sustainable Impact of Nanotechnology | Legname G.,International School for Advanced Studies | Legname G.,Elettra - Sincrotrone Trieste

Prions are the etiological agent of fatal neurodegenerative diseases called prion diseases or transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. These maladies can be sporadic, genetic or infectious disorders. Prions are due to post-translational modifications of the cellular prion protein leading to the formation of a β-sheet enriched conformer with altered biochemical properties. The molecular events causing prion formation in sporadic prion diseases are still elusive. Recently, we published a research elucidating the contribution of major structural determinants and environmental factors in prion protein folding and stability. Our study highlighted the crucial role of octarepeats in stabilizing prion protein; the presence of a highly enthalpically stable intermediate state in prionsusceptible species; and the role of disulfide bridge in preserving native fold thus avoiding the misfolding to a β-sheet enriched isoform. Taking advantage from these findings, in this work we present new insights into structural determinants of prion protein folding and stability. © 2015, Federico Benetti and Giuseppe Legname. Source

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