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The human PrP gene (PRNP) has two common alleles that encode either methionine or valine at codon 129. This polymorphism modulates disease susceptibility and phenotype of human transmissible spongiform encyphalopathies, but the molecular mechanism by which these effects are mediated remains unclear. Here, we compared the misfolding pathway that leads to the formation of beta-sheet-rich oligomeric isoforms of the methionine 129 variant of PrP to that of the valine 129 variant. We provide evidence for differences in the folding behavior between the two variants at the early stages of oligomer formation. We show that Met(129) has a higher propensity to form beta-sheet-rich oligomers, whereas Val(129) has a higher tendency to fold into alpha-helical-rich monomers. An equimolar mixture of both variants displayed an intermidate folding behavior. We show that the oligomers of both variants are initially a mixture of alpha- and beta-rich conformers that evolve with time to an increasingly homogeneous beta-rich form. This maturation process, which involves no further change in proteinase K resistance, occurs more rapidly in the Met(129) form than the Val(129) form. Although the involvement of such beta-rich oligomers in prion pathogenesis is speculative, the misfolding behavior could, in part, explain the higher susceptibility of individuals that are methionine homozygote to both sporadic and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





31390 - 31397


Alleles, Amino Acid Sequence, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome, Endopeptidase K, Genetic Variation, Heterozygote, Homozygote, Humans, In Vitro Techniques, Methionine, Models, Molecular, Molecular Sequence Data, Prions, Protein Folding, Protein Structure, Quaternary, Protein Structure, Secondary, Recombinant Proteins, Valine