Extracellular environment modulates the formation and propagation of particular amyloid structures

Laura Westergard, Heather L. True

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Amyloidogenic proteins, including prions, assemble into multiple forms of structurally distinct fibres. The [PSI+] prion, endogenous to the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is a dominantly inherited, epigenetic modifier of phenotypes. [PSI+] formation relies on the coexistence of another prion, [RNQ+]. Here, in order to better define the role of amyloid diversity on cellular phenotypes, we investigated how physiological and environmental changes impact the generation and propagation of diverse protein conformations from a single polypeptide. Utilizing the yeast model system, we defined extracellular factors that influence the formation of a spectrum of alternative self-propagating amyloid structures of the Sup35 protein, called [PSI+] variants. Strikingly, exposure to specific stressful environments dramatically altered the variants of [PSI+] that formed de novo. Additionally, we found that stress also influenced the association between the [PSI+] and [RNQ+] prions in a way that it superceded their typical relationship. Furthermore, changing the growth environment modified both the biochemical properties and [PSI+]-inducing capabilities of the [RNQ+] template. These data suggest that the cellular environment contributes to both the generation and the selective propagation of specific amyloid structures, providing insight into a key feature that impacts phenotypic diversity in yeast and the cross-species transmission barriers characteristic of prion diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)698-715
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2014


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