Comparison of the local structural stabilities of mammalian prion protein (PrP) by fragment molecular orbital calculations

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Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a member of the prion diseases, is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder suspected to be caused by a malfunction of prion protein (PrP). Although BSE prions have been reported to be transmitted to a wide range of animal species, dogs and hamsters are known to be BSE-resistant animals. Analysis of canine and hamster PrP could elucidate the molecular mechanisms supporting the species barriers to BSE prion transmission. The structural stability of 6 mammalian PrPs, including human, cattle, mouse, hamster, dog and cat, was analyzed. We then evaluated intramolecular interactions in PrP by fragment molecular orbital (FMO) calculations. Despite similar backbone structures, the PrP side-chain orientations differed among the animal species examined. The pair interaction energies between secondary structural elements in the PrPs varied considerably, indicating that the local structural stabilities of PrP varied among the different animal species. Principal component analysis (PCA) demonstrated that different local structural stability exists in bovine PrP compared with the PrP of other animal species examined. The results of the present study suggest that differences in local structural stabilities between canine and bovine PrP link diversity in susceptibility to BSE prion infection.

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