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Gauczynski, Sabine (2002): Characterization of the 37-kDa/67-kDa laminin receptor as the cell surface receptor for the cellular prion protein. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy
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Abstract

Prions have been extensively studied since they represent a new class of infectious agents in which a protein, PrPSc (prion scrapie), appears to be the sole component of the infectious particle. They are responsible for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), which affect both, humans and animals. Human prion diseases occur in infectious, sporadic or genetic forms. The "protein only" hypothesis argues that the key event in the pathogenesis represents the conversion of the normal host protein, PrPc, into its pathogenic isoform PrPSc. Prion diseases have been associated with the accumulation of this abnormally folded protein and its neurotoxic effects. However, it is not known if PrPc loss of function is an important factor since the normal biological function of PrPc, a cell surface-anchored glycoprotein predominantly expressed in neuronal cells, and the cellular processes in which this protein is involved remain obscure. Recently, the human 37 kDa laminin receptor precursor (LRP), which represents the precursor of the human 67 kDa high-affinity laminin receptor (LR), was identified as a binding partner for the cellular prion protein in a yeast two-hybrid screen. In order to characterize the possible role of LRP/LR as a cell surface receptor for PrPc, cell culture studies were performed to investigate the cellular localization of PrP and LRP/LR and to analyse the binding and internalization behaviour of PrP depending on the presence of LRP/LR on the cell surface of neuronal and non-neuronal cells. Immunofluorescence analysis of non-permeabilized murine neuroblastoma cells demonstrated that PrP and LRP/LR co-localize on the surface of these cells. In addition, baby hamster kidney (BHK) cells transfected with recombinant Semlik-Forest virus RNAs overexpressed human PrP and human LRP at their cell surface, the latter one orientated as a type II transmembrane protein with its C-terminus outside and its N-terminus inside the cell. Co-localization of both proteins was observed on BHK cells co-transfected with LRP and PrP encoding recombinant SFV RNAs. Cell binding and internalization assays with recombinant human PrP demonstrated the LRP/LR-dependent binding and endocytosis of externally added human PrP. An increased, dose-dependent cell binding of recombinant PrP was demonstrated by BHK cells overexpressing full-length human LRP on their cell surface. Trypsin treatment of the cell surface revealed the LRP dependent internalization of GST-tagged and untagged, glycosylated PrP. In contrast to wild-type LRP, the expression of an LRP mutant lacking its transmembrane domain led to the secretion of this mutant from transfected BHK cells and totally abolished the binding and internalization of exogenous, recombinant PrP. This LRP mutant could function as a decoy recetor in therapy of TSEs. The strict LRP/LR specificity of the PrP binding to neuronal cells was verified by testing the displacement capacity of a series of different antibodies in the LRP-PrP binding reaction. Only LRP and PrP specific antibodies were able to block totally the binding of human GST-fused PrP to N2a and NT2 cells whereas various control antibodies used for competition showed no effect. Mapping analyses in the yeast two-hybrid system and cell-binding assays identified direct and heparan sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG)-dependent interaction sites mediating the binding of cellular PrP to the 37-kDa/67-kDa LRP/LR. The relationship between the 37-kDa LRP and the 67-kDa high-affinity LR is unknown so far. Both forms were observed in plasma membrane fractions of N2a cells. We conclude from these data that the 37-kDa/67-kDa laminin receptor acts as the main cell surface receptor for PrP. High-level expression and purification of recombinant, glycosylated prion proteins in mammalian cells is essential for a better understanding of the physiological function of PrPc and biochemical processes responsible for prion diseases. Due to the presence of important organelles, membranes and other cellular cofactors which are necessary for the correct processing, trafficking and localization of prion proteins mammalian cell culture systems such as the Semliki-Forest virus (SFV) system allow the synthesis and characterization of wild-type as well as mutant PrP to get a better insight into the biology of these proteins. Therefore, the SFV system was used to generate recombinant highly glycosylated human wild-type and human disease-associated mutant prion proteins as well as FLAG-tagged human and bovine PrP in cultured BHK cells. Both mutated variants, which are related to the human prion diseases fatal familial insomnia (FFI) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) reveal proteinase K (PK) resistance, one of the most typical biochemical properties characteristic for the infectious scrapie isoform of the prion protein. The subcellular location of both PrP mutants at the cell surface and in intracellular compartments of transfected BHK cells was similar to that of wild-type PrP without any significant differences regarding the cellular distribution and expression level. In addition, FLAG-tagged prion proteins were expressed with high efficiency in BHK cells showing the typical glycosylation pattern allowing the rapid and simple purification via anti-FLAG antibody chromatography. PrP dimers could play an essential role in the PrPc to PrPSc conversion process and might be involved in PrP interspecies transmission. Recently, crystallization of the prion protein in a dimeric form was reported. Size exclusion chromatography showed that native soluble homogeneous FLAG tagged prion proteins from hamster, man and cattle expressed in the baculovirus system were predominantly dimeric. The PrP/PrP interaction was confirmed in rec. SFV-RNA transfected BHK cells co-expressing FLAG and oligohistidine tagged human PrP. The yeast two-hybrid system identified the octarepeat region and the C-terminal structured domain (aa90-aa230) of PrP as PrP/PrP interaction domains. The identification of the 37-kDa/67-kDa laminin receptor as the receptor for the cellular prion protein might represent an important step for a better understanding of the molecular biology of prion diseases and might lead to the development of powerful therapeutics such as LRP/LR specific antibodies for the treatment of these unconventional diseases.