Homodimerization as a molecular switch between low and high efficiency PrPC cell surface delivery and neuroprotective activity

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PrPC is associated with a variety of functions, and its ability to interact with a multitude of partners, including itself, may largely explain PrP multifunctionality and the lack of consensus on the genuine physiological function of the protein in vivo. In contrast, there is a consensus in the literature that alterations in PrPC trafficking and intracellular retention result in neuronal degeneration. In addition, a proteolytic modification in the late secretory pathway termed the α-cleavage induces the secretion of PrPN1, a PrPC-derived metabolite with fascinating neuroprotective activity against toxic oligomeric Aβ molecules implicated in Alzheimer disease. Thus, studies focusing on understanding the regulation of PrPC trafficking to the cell surface and the modulation of α-cleavage are essential. The objective of this commentary is to highlight recent evidences that PrPC homodimerization stimulates trafficking of the protein to the cell surface and results in high levels of PrPN1 secretion. We also discuss a hypothetical model for these results and comment on future challenges and opportunities.

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