A significant body of evidence shows that polyglutamine (polyQ) tracts are important for various biological functions. The characteristic polymorphism of polyQ length is thought to play an important role in the adaptation of organisms to their environment. However, proteins with expanded polyQ are prone to form amyloids, which cause diseases in humans and animals and toxicity in yeast. Saccharomyces cerevisiae contain at least 8 proteins which can form heritable amyloids, called prions, and most of them are proteins with glutamine- and asparagine-enriched domains. Yeast prion amyloids are susceptible to fragmentation by the protein disaggregase Hsp104, which allows them to propagate and be transmitted to daughter cells during cell divisions. We have previously shown that interspersion of polyQ domains with some non-glutamine residues stimulates fragmentation of polyQ amyloids in yeast and that yeast prion domains are often enriched in one of these residues. These findings indicate that yeast prion domains may have derived from polyQ tracts via accumulation and amplification of mutations. The same hypothesis may be applied to polyasparagine (polyN) tracts, since they display similar properties to polyQ, such as length polymorphism, amyloid formation and toxicity. We propose that mutations in polyQ/N may be favored by natural selection thus making prion domains likely by-products of the evolution of polyQ/N.
AI Alexandrov, AB Polyanskaya, GV Serpionov, MD Ter-Avanesyan, VW Kushnirov. The effects of amino acid composition of glutamine-rich domains on amyloid formation and fragmentation. PLoS One 2012; 7: e46458.
PMID: 23071575 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046458