Comparative analysis of the human and chicken prion protein copper binding regions at pH 6.5

Lars Redecke, Wolfram Meyer-Klaucke, Mirjam Koker, Joachim Clos, Dessislava Georgieva, Nicolay Genov, Hartmut Echner, Hubert Kalbacher, Markus Perbandt, Reinhard Bredehorst, Wolfgang Voelter, Christian Betzel

33 Citations (Scopus)


Recent experimental evidence supports the hypothesis that prion proteins (PrPs) are involved in the Cu(II) metabolism. Moreover, the copper binding region has been implicated in transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, which are caused by the infectious isoform of prion proteins (PrP Sc). In contrast to mammalian PrP, avian prion proteins have a considerably different N-terminal copper binding region and, most interestingly, are not able to undergo the conversion process into an infectious isoform. Therefore, we applied x-ray absorption spectroscopy to analyze in detail the Cu(II) geometry of selected synthetic human PrP Cu(II) octapeptide complexes in comparison with the corresponding chicken PrP hexapeptide complexes at pH 6.5, which mimics the conditions in the endocytic compartments of neuronal cells. Our results revealed that structure and coordination of the human PrP copper binding sites are highly conserved in the pH 6.5-7.4 range, indicating that the reported pH dependence of copper binding to PrP becomes significant at lower pH values. Furthermore, the different chicken PrP hexarepeat motifs display homologous Cu(II) coordination at sub-stoichiometric copper concentrations. Regarding the fully cation-saturated prion proteins, however, a reduced copper coordination capability is supposed for the chicken prion protein based on the observation that chicken PrP is not able to form an intra-repeat Cu(II) binding site. These results provide new insights into the prion protein structure-function relationship and the conversion process of PrP.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number14
Pages (from-to)13987-13992
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 08.04.2005

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)


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