Equilibrium folding properties of the yeast prion protein determinant Ure2.


The yeast non-Mendelian factor [URE3] propagates by a prion-like mechanism, involving aggregation of the chromosomally encoded protein Ure2. The [URE3] phenotype is equivalent to loss of function of Ure2, a protein involved in regulation of nitrogen metabolism. The prion-like behaviour of Ure2 in vivo is dependent on the first 65 amino acid residues of its N-terminal region which contains a highly repetitive sequence rich in asparagine. This region has been termed the prion-determining domain (PrD). Removal of as little as residues 2-20 of the protein is sufficient to prevent occurrence of the [URE3] phenotype. Removal of the PrD does not affect the regulatory activity of Ure2. The C-terminal portion of the protein has homology to glutathione S -transferases, which are dimeric proteins. We have produced the Ure2 protein to high yield in Escherichia coli from a synthetic gene. The recombinant purified protein is shown to be a dimer. The stability, folding and oligomeric state of Ure2 and a series of N-terminally truncated or deleted variants were studied and compared. The stability of Ure2, DeltaGD-N, H2O, determined by chemical denaturation and monitored by fluorescence, is 12.1(+/-0.4) kcal mol-1at 25 degrees C and pH 8.4. A range of structural probes show a single, coincident unfolding transition, which is invariant over a 550-fold change in protein concentration. The stability is the same within error for Ure2 variants lacking all or part of the prion-determining domain. The data indicate that in the folded protein the PrD is in an unstructured conformation and does not form specific intra- or intermolecular interactions at micromolar protein concentrations. This suggests that the C-terminal domain may stabilise the PrD against prion formation by steric means, and implies that the PrD does not induce prion formation by altering the thermodynamic stability of the folded protein.

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