Copper and Zinc Interactions with Cellular Prion Proteins Change Solubility of Full-Length Glycosylated Isoforms and Induce the Occurrence of Heterogeneous Phenotypes
Prion diseases are characterized biochemically by protein aggregation of infectious prion isoforms (PrPSc), which result from the conformational conversion of physiological prion proteins (PrPC). PrPC are variable post-translationally modified glycoproteins, which exist as full length and as aminoterminally truncated glycosylated proteins and which exhibit differential detergent solubility. This implicates the presence of heterogeneous phenotypes, which overlap as protein complexes at the same molecular masses. Although the biological function of PrPC is still enigmatic, evidence reveals that PrPC exhibits metal-binding properties, which result in structural changes and decreased solubility. In this study, we analyzed the yield of PrPC metal binding affiliated with low solubility and changes in protein banding patterns. By implementing a high-speed centrifugation step, the interaction of zinc ions with PrPC was shown to generate large quantities of proteins with low solubility, consisting mainly of full-length glycosylated PrPC; whereas unglycosylated PrPC remained in the supernatants as well as truncated glycosylated proteins which lack of octarepeat sequence necessary for metal binding. This effect was considerably lower when PrPC interacted with copper ions; the presence of other metals tested exhibited no effect under these conditions. The binding of zinc and copper to PrPC demonstrated differentially soluble protein yields within distinct PrPC subtypes. PrPC–Zn2+-interaction may provide a means to differentiate glycosylated and unglycosylated subtypes and offers detailed analysis of metal-bound and metal-free protein conversion assays.