Separation of scrapie prion infectivity from PrP amyloid polymers

J Mol Biol. 1996 Jun 21;259(4):608-21. doi: 10.1006/jmbi.1996.0343.


The prion protein (PrP) undergoes a profound conformational change when the cellular isoform (PrPC) is converted into the scrapie form (PrPSc). Limited proteolysis of PrPsc produces PrP 27-30 which readily polymerizes into amyloid. To study the structure of PrP amyloid, we employed organic solvents that perturb protein conformation. Hexafluoro-2-propanol (HFIP), which promotes alpha-helix formation, modified the ultrastructure of rod-shaped PrP amyloids; flattened ribbons with a more regular substructure were found. As the concentration of HFIP was increased, the beta-sheet content and proteinase K resistance of PrP 27-30 as well as prion infectivity diminished. HFIP reversibly decreased the binding of Congo red dye to the rods while inactivation of prion infectivity was irreversible. In contrast to 10% HFIP, 1,1,1-trifluoro-2-propanol (TFIP) did not inactivate prion infectivity but like HFIP, TFIP did alter the morphology of the rods and abolish Congo red binding. This study separates prion infectivity from the amyloid properties of PrP 27-30 and underscores the dependence of prion infectivity on PrPSc conformation. The results also demonstrate that the specific beta-sheet-rich structures required for prion infectivity can be differentiated from those needed for amyloid formation as determined by Congo red binding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 1-Propanol / pharmacology
  • Acetone / analogs & derivatives
  • Acetone / pharmacology
  • Alcohols / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Congo Red / metabolism
  • Cricetinae
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Endopeptidase K
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / pharmacology
  • Glycerol / pharmacology
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • PrP 27-30 Protein / chemistry
  • PrP 27-30 Protein / pathogenicity
  • PrP 27-30 Protein / ultrastructure*
  • PrPC Proteins / chemistry
  • PrPC Proteins / ultrastructure*
  • Propanols
  • Protein Conformation*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Scrapie / metabolism*
  • Serine Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Solubility
  • Solvents / pharmacology
  • Spectrophotometry
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared
  • Sucrose / pharmacology


  • Alcohols
  • Fluorocarbons
  • PrPC Proteins
  • Propanols
  • Solvents
  • PrP 27-30 Protein
  • Acetone
  • hexafluoroisopropanol
  • Congo Red
  • Sucrose
  • 1-Propanol
  • hexafluoroacetone
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • Endopeptidase K
  • Glycerol