Octa-repeat domain of the mammalian prion protein mRNA forms stable A-helical hairpin structure rather than G-quadruplexes.Sci Rep. 2019 02 21; 9(1):2465.SR
Misfolding and aggregation of prion protein (PrP) causes neurodegenerative diseases like Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and scrapie. Besides the consensus that spontaneous conversion of normal cellular PrP[C] into misfolded and aggregating PrP[Sc] is the central event in prion disease, an alternative hypothesis suggests the generation of pathological PrP[Sc] by rare translational frameshifting events in the octa-repeat domain of the PrP mRNA. Ribosomal frameshifting most commonly relies on a slippery site and an adjacent stable RNA structure to stall translating ribosome. Hence, it is crucial to unravel the secondary structure of the octa-repeat domain of PrP mRNA. Each of the five octa-repeats contains a motif (GGCGGUGGUGGCUGGG) which alone in vitro forms a G-quadruplex. Since the propensity of mRNA to form secondary structure depends on the sequence context, we set to determine the structure of the complete octa-repeat region. We assessed the structure of full-length octa-repeat domain of PrP mRNA using dynamic light scattering (DLS), small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy and selective 2'-hydroxyl acylation analysis by primer extension (SHAPE). Our data show that the PrP octa-repeat mRNA forms stable A-helical hairpins with no evidence of G-quadruplex structure even in the presence of G-quadruplex stabilizing agents.