Molecular biology of prion propagation Academic Article uri icon


  • The occurrence of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and the experimental confirmation that it is caused by the same prion strain as BSE has dramatically highlighted the need for a precise understanding of the molecular basis of prion propagation. The molecular basis of prion-strain diversity, previously a major challenge to the protein-only model, is now becoming clearer. The conformational change thought to be central to prion propagation, from a predominantly alpha-helical fold to one predominantly comprising beta-structure, can now be reproduced in vitro, and the ability of beta-PrP to form fibrillar aggregates provides a plausible molecular mechanism for prion propagation. These and other advances in the fundamental biology of prion propagation are leading to prion diseases becoming arguably the best understood of the neurodegenerative conditions and strategies for the development of rational therapeutics are becoming clearer.


publication date

  • June 1999