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. 2001 Sep 5;275(1):1-18.
doi: 10.1016/s0378-1119(01)00627-8.

The Prion Gene Complex Encoding PrP(C) and Doppel: Insights From Mutational Analysis


The Prion Gene Complex Encoding PrP(C) and Doppel: Insights From Mutational Analysis

P Mastrangelo et al. Gene. .


The prion protein gene, Prnp, encodes PrP(Sc), the major structural component of prions, infectious pathogens causing a number of disorders including scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (or BSE). Missense mutations in the human Prnp gene cause inherited prion diseases such as familial Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. In uninfected animals Prnp encodes a glycophosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored protein denoted PrP(C) and in prion infections PrP(C) is converted to PrP(Sc) by templated refolding. Though Prnp is conserved in mammalian species, attempts to verify interactions of putative PrP binding proteins by genetic means have proven frustrating and the ZrchI and Npu lines of Prnp gene-ablated mice (Prnp(0/0) mice) lacking PrP(C) remain healthy throughout development. This indicates that PrP(C) serves a function that is not apparent in a laboratory setting or that other molecules have overlapping functions. Current possibilities involve shuttling or sequestration of synaptic Cu(II) via binding to N-terminal octapeptide residues and/or signal transduction involving the fyn kinase. A new point of entry into the issue of prion protein function has emerged from identification of a paralogue, Prnd, with 24% coding sequence identity to Prnp. Prnd lies downstream of Prnp and encodes the doppel (Dpl) protein. Like PrP(C), Dpl is presented on the cell surface via a GPI anchor and has three alpha-helices: however, it lacks the conformationally plastic and octapeptide repeat domains present in its well-known relative. Interestingly, Dpl is overexpressed in the Ngsk and Rcm0 lines of Prnp(0/0) mice via intergenic splicing events. These lines of Prnp(0/0) mice exhibit ataxia and apoptosis of cerebellar cells, indicating that ectopic synthesis of Dpl protein is toxic to central nervous system neurons: this inference has now been confirmed by the construction of transgenic mice expressing Dpl under the direct control of the PrP promoter. Remarkably, Dpl-programmed ataxia is rescued by wild-type Prnp transgenes. The interaction between the Prnp and Prnd genes in mouse cerebellar neurons may have a physical correlate in competition between Dpl and PrP(C) within a common biochemical pathway that when mis-regulated leads to apoptosis.

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