Widely expressed in the adult central nervous system, the cellular prion protein (PrP(C)) is implicated in a variety of processes, including neuronal excitability. Dipeptidyl aminopeptidase-like protein 6 (DPP6) was first identified as a PrP(C) interactor using in vivo formaldehyde cross-linking of wild type (WT) mouse brain. This finding was confirmed in three cell lines and, because DPP6 directs the functional assembly of K(+) channels, we assessed the impact of WT and mutant PrP(C) upon Kv4.2-based cell surface macromolecular complexes. Whereas a Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker disease version of PrP with eight extra octarepeats was a loss of function both for complex formation and for modulation of Kv4.2 channels, WT PrP(C), in a DPP6-dependent manner, modulated Kv4.2 channel properties, causing an increase in peak amplitude, a rightward shift of the voltage-dependent steady-state inactivation curve, a slower inactivation, and a faster recovery from steady-state inactivation. Thus, the net impact of wt PrP(C) was one of enhancement, which plays a critical role in the down-regulation of neuronal membrane excitability and is associated with a decreased susceptibility to seizures. Insofar as previous work has established a requirement for WT PrP(C) in the Aβ-dependent modulation of excitability in cholinergic basal forebrain neurons, our findings implicate PrP(C) regulation of Kv4.2 channels as a mechanism contributing to the effects of oligomeric Aβ upon neuronal excitability and viability.
Keywords: Electrophysiology; Membrane Proteins; Potassium Channels; Prions; Protein Cross-linking.