Recent findings have revealed the role of prion-like mechanisms in the control of host defense and programmed cell death cascades. In fungi, HET-S, a cell death-inducing protein containing a HeLo pore-forming domain, is activated through amyloid templating by a Nod-like receptor (NLR). Here we characterize the HELLP protein behaving analogously to HET-S and bearing a new type of N-terminal cell death-inducing domain termed HeLo-like (HELL) and a C-terminal regulatory amyloid motif known as PP. The gene encoding HELLP is part of a three-gene cluster also encoding a lipase (SBP) and a Nod-like receptor, both of which display the PP motif. The PP motif is similar to the RHIM amyloid motif directing formation of the RIP1/RIP3 necrosome in humans. The C-terminal region of HELLP, HELLP(215-278), encompassing the motif, allows prion propagation and assembles into amyloid fibrils, as demonstrated by X-ray diffraction and FTIR analyses. Solid-state NMR studies reveal a well-ordered local structure of the amyloid core residues and a primary sequence that is almost entirely arranged in a rigid conformation, and confirm a β-sheet structure in an assigned stretch of three amino acids. HELLP is activated by amyloid templating and displays membrane-targeting and cell death-inducing activity. HELLP targets the SBP lipase to the membrane, suggesting a synergy between HELLP and SBP in membrane dismantling. Remarkably, the HeLo-like domain of HELLP is homologous to the pore-forming domain of MLKL, the cell death-execution protein in necroptosis, revealing a transkingdom evolutionary relationship between amyloid-controlled fungal programmed cell death and mammalian necroptosis.
Keywords: amyloid; incompatibility; necroptosis; prion; programmed cell death.