Evidence of Orientation-Dependent Early States of Prion Protein Misfolded Structures from Single Molecule Force Spectroscopy


Biology (Basel)


16 September, 2022


Andrea Raspadori, Valentina Vignali, Anna Murello, Gabriele Giachin, Bruno Samorì, Motomasa Tanaka, Carlos Bustamante, Giampaolo Zuccheri, Giuseppe Legname

Prion diseases are neurodegenerative disorders characterized by the presence of oligomers and amyloid fibrils. These are the result of protein aggregation processes of the cellular prion protein (PrPC) into amyloidal forms denoted as prions or PrPSc. We employed atomic force microscopy (AFM) for single molecule pulling (single molecule force spectroscopy, SMFS) experiments on the recombinant truncated murine prion protein (PrP) domain to characterize its conformations and potential initial oligomerization processes. Our AFM-SMFS results point to a complex scenario of structural heterogeneity of PrP at the monomeric and dimer level, like other amyloid proteins involved in similar pathologies. By applying this technique, we revealed that the PrP C-terminal domain unfolds in a two-state process. We used two dimeric constructs with different PrP reciprocal orientations: one construct with two sequential PrP in the N- to C-terminal orientation (N-C dimer) and a second one in the C- to C-terminal orientation (C-C dimer). The analysis revealed that the different behavior in terms of unfolding force, whereby the dimer placed C-C dimer unfolds at a higher force compared to the N-C orientation. We propose that the C-C dimer orientation may represent a building block of amyloid fibril formation.