Pathogenic mutations in the hydrophobic core of the human prion protein can promote structural instability and misfolding

Marc W van der Kamp, Valerie Daggett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or prion diseases, are caused by misfolding and aggregation of the prion protein PrP. These diseases can be hereditary in humans and four of the many disease-associated missense mutants of PrP are in the hydrophobic core: V180I, F198S, V203I and V210I. The T183A mutation is related to the hydrophobic core mutants as it is close to the hydrophobic core and known to cause instability. We used extensive molecular dynamics simulations of these five PrP mutants to compare their dynamics and conformations to those of the wild type PrP. The simulations highlight the changes that occur upon introduction of mutations and help to rationalize experimental findings. Changes can occur around the mutation site, but they can also be propagated over long distances. In particular, the F198S and T183A mutations lead to increased flexibility in parts of the structure that are normally stable, and the short β-sheet moves away from the rest of the protein. Mutations V180I, V210I and, to a lesser extent, V203I cause changes similar to those observed upon lowering the pH, which has been linked to misfolding. Early misfolding is observed in one V180I simulation. Overall, mutations in the hydrophobic core have a significant effect on the dynamics and stability of PrP, including the propensity to misfold, which helps to explain their role in the development of familial prion diseases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)732-48
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2010

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Mutant Proteins
  • Models, Molecular
  • Humans
  • Protein Folding
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Prions
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Protein Conformation


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