Yeast cells can sometimes reverse the protein misfolding and clumping associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, according to new research from the University of Arizona.
The new finding contradicts the idea that once prion proteins have changed into the shape that aggregates, the change is irreversible.
"It’s believed that when these aggregates arise that cells cannot get rid of them,” said Tricia Serio, UA professor and head of the department of molecular and cellular biology. “We’ve shown that’s not the case. Cells can clear themselves of these aggregates.”
Prions are proteins that change into a shape that triggers their neighbors to change, also. In that new form, the proteins cluster. The aggregates, called amyloids, are associated with diseases including Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s.
"The prion protein is kind of like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” said Serio, senior author of the paper published today in the open-access journal eLife. “When you get Hyde, all the prion protein that gets made after that is folded in that bad way.”
When colonies of baker’s yeast cells that contain clumped prion proteins (colonies of white cells on left) are stressed by high temperatures, some can convert the aggregated prion proteins to the non-clumping form of the protein (red cells in the colonies the right). Credit: Serio laboratory/ UA molecular and cellular biology