Reversibility of Prion Misfolding: Insights from Constant-pH Molecular Dynamics Simulations

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The prion protein (PrP) is the cause of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy are examples of TSEs. Although the normal form of PrP (PrPC) is monomeric and soluble, it can misfold into a pathogenic form (PrPSc) that has a high content of beta-structure and can aggregate forming amyloid fibrils. The mechanism of conversion of PrPC into PrPSc is not known but different triggers have been proposed. It can be catalyzed by a PrPSc sample, or it can be induced by an external factor, such as low pH. The pH effect on the structure of PrP was recently studied by computational methods [Campos et al. J. Phys. Chem. B 2010, 114, 12692-12700], and an evident trend of loss of helical structure was observed with pH decrease, together with a gain of beta-structures. In particular, one simulation at pH 2 showed an evident misfolding transition. The main goal of the present work was to study the effects of a change in pH to 7 in several transient conformations of this simulation, in order to draw some conclusions about the reversibility of PrP misfolding. Although the most significant effect caused by the change of pH to 7 was a global stabilization of the protein structure, we could also observe that some conformational transitions induced by pH 2 were reversible in many of our simulations, namely those started from the early moments of the misfolding transition. This observation is in good agreement with experiments showing that, even at pH as low as 1.7, it is possible to revert the misfolding process
Original languageUnknown
Pages (from-to)8812-8821
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number30
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012

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