Interplay of buried histidine protonation and protein stability in prion misfolding.

Scientific reports

PubMedID: 28408762

Malevanets A, Chong PA, Hansen DF, Rizk P, Sun Y, Lin H, Muhandiram R, Chakrabartty A, Kay LE, Forman-Kay JD, Wodak SJ. Interplay of buried histidine protonation and protein stability in prion misfolding. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):882.
Misofolding of mammalian prion proteins (PrP) is believed to be the cause of a group of rare and fatal neurodegenerative diseases. Despite intense scrutiny however, the mechanism of the misfolding reaction remains unclear. We perform nuclear Magnetic Resonance and thermodynamic stability measurements on the C-terminal domains (residues 90-231) of two PrP variants exhibiting different pH-induced susceptibilities to aggregation: the susceptible hamster prion (GHaPrP) and its less susceptible rabbit homolog (RaPrP). The pKa of histidines in these domains are determined from titration experiments, and proton-exchange rates are measured at pH 5 and pH 7. A single buried highly conserved histidine, H187/H186 in GHaPrP/RaPrP, exhibited a markedly down shifted pKa ~5 for both proteins. However, noticeably larger pH-induced shifts in exchange rates occur for GHaPrP versus RaPrP. ANALYSIS
of the data indicates that protonation of the buried histidine destabilizes both PrP variants, but produces a more drastic effect in the less stable GHaPrP.This interpretation is supported by urea denaturation experiments performed on both PrP variants at neutral and low pH, and correlates with the difference in disease susceptibility of the two species, as expected from the documented linkage between destabilization of the folded state and formation of misfolded and aggregated species.