Probing structural differences between PrP(C) and PrP(Sc) by surface nitration and acetylation: evidence of conformational change in the C-terminus

Biochemistry. 2011 Jun 7;50(22):4963-72. doi: 10.1021/bi102073j. Epub 2011 May 11.


We used two chemical modifiers, tetranitromethane (TNM) and acetic anhydride (Ac(2)O), which specifically target accessible tyrosine and lysine residues, respectively, to modify recombinant Syrian hamster PrP(90-231) [rSHaPrP(90-231)] and SHaPrP 27-30, the proteinase K-resistant core of PrP(Sc) isolated from brain of scrapie-infected Syrian hamsters. Our aim was to find locations of conformational change. Modified proteins were subjected to in-gel proteolytic digestion with trypsin or chymotrypsin and subsequent analysis by mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF). Several differences in chemical reactivity were observed. With TNM, the most conspicuous reactivity difference seen involves peptide E(221)-R(229) (containing Y(225) and Y(226)), which in rSHaPrP(90-231) was much more extensively modified than in SHaPrP 27-30; peptide H(111)-R(136), containing Y(128), was also more modified in rSHaPrP(90-231). Conversely, peptides Y(149)-R(151), Y(157)-R(164), and R(151)-Y(162) suffered more extensive modification in SHaPrP 27-30. Acetic anhydride modified very extensively peptide G(90)-K(106), containing K(101), K(104), K(106), and the amino terminus, in both rSHaPrP(90-231) and SHaPrP 27-30. These results suggest that (1) SHaPrP 27-30 exhibits important conformational differences in the C-terminal region with respect to rSHaPrP(90-231), resulting in the loss of solvent accessibility of Y(225) and Y(226), very solvent-exposed in the latter conformation; because other results suggest preservation of the two C-terminal helices, this might mean that these are tightly packed in SHaPrP 27-30. (2) On the other hand, tyrosines contained in the stretch spanning approximately Y(149)-R(164) are more accessible in SHaPrP 27-30, suggesting rearrangements in α-helix H1 and the short β-sheet of rSHaPrP(90-231). (3) The amino-terminal region of SHaPrP 27-30 is very accessible. These data should help in the validation and construction of structural models of PrP(Sc).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • Cricetinae
  • Mesocricetus
  • PrPC Proteins / chemistry*
  • PrPC Proteins / metabolism
  • PrPSc Proteins / chemistry*
  • PrPSc Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Conformation
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Trypsin / chemistry
  • Trypsin / metabolism


  • PrPC Proteins
  • PrPSc Proteins
  • Trypsin