Effects of Copper on Survival of Prion Protein Knockout Neurons and Glia

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The N-terminal region of the prion protein (PrP) contains an octameric repeat region suggested to bind copper. A 32-amino acid peptide (PrPOcta) based on this region in the protein was tested for its effects on cultured cerebellar cells. Cerebellar cells from mice deficient in cellular PrP (Prnp0/0 mice) are more sensitive to copper toxicity and oxidative stress. PrPOcta selectively promotes the survival of Prnp0/0 cerebellar cells. However, PrPOcta also reduces the toxicity of CuSO4 on cerebellar cells and abolishes the difference in increased sensitivity of Prnp0/0 cells to both copper toxicity and also oxidative stress from xanthine oxidase. PrPOcta does not promote the survival or proliferation of astrocytes or microglia. The survival-promoting effects of PrPOcta on neurons may be due to its ability to effectively chelate copper. The octameric repeat region of PrP may represent a functional domain of the native protein.

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