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Convergent replication of mouse synthetic prion strains.

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Prion diseases are neurodegenerative disorders characterized by the aberrant folding of endogenous proteins into self-propagating pathogenic conformers. Prion disease can be initiated in animal models by inoculation with amyloid fibrils formed from bacterially derived recombinant prion protein. The synthetic prions that accumulated in infected organisms are structurally distinct from the amyloid preparations used to initiate their formation and change conformationally on repeated passage. To investigate the nature of synthetic prion transformation, we infected mice with a conformationally diverse set of amyloids and serially passaged the resulting prion strains. At each passage, we monitored changes in the biochemical and biological properties of the adapting strain. The physicochemical properties of each synthetic prion strain gradually changed on serial propagation until attaining a common adapted state with shared physicochemical characteristics. These results indicate that synthetic prions can assume multiple intermediate conformations before converging into one conformation optimized for in vivo propagation.

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