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Title: Prions, autophagy, ageing and actin cytoskeleton in yeast
Author: Speldewinde, Shaun
ISNI:       0000 0004 6351 7111
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2017
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Prions are infectious protein entities capable of self-replication. Prions are the causal agents behind the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies causing neurodegeneration and death in affected organisms. Prions have been identified in yeast with the best-characterized prions being [PSI+] and [PIN+], whose respective native proteins are the Sup35 translation termination factor and Rnq1 (function unknown). Autophagy is a cellular housekeeping mechanism mediating the degradation of damaged proteins and superfluous organelles. It is a highly sequential process regulated by autophagy related genes (ATGs). Autophagy has also been implicated in the clearance of amyloidogenic proteins including prions. However, the mechanistic basis underlying this activity is poorly understood, and a key objective of this project was to characterize how autophagy prevents spontaneous prion formation. Our study found that the deletion of core ATGs correlated with an increase in de novo [PSI+] and [PIN+] formation as well as Sup35 aggregation. Enhancement of autophagic flux through spermidine treatment attenuated the increased levels of de novo [PSI+] formation in mutants that normally show elevated levels of [PSI+] formation. Defective autophagy correlated with increased oxidatively damaged Sup35 in an atg1 mutant whereas anaerobic growth abrogated the increased [PSI+] formation in the atg1 mutant to wild-type levels. Our data suggest that autophagy serves a protective role in the clearance of oxidatively damaged Sup35 proteins that otherwise has a higher propensity towards [PSI+] prion formation. We also investigated the role of prion formation and autophagy during yeast chronological ageing which is the time that non-dividing cells remain viable. Prion diseases are associated with advanced age which correlates with a decline in cellular protective mechanisms including autophagy. Our study found an age dependent increase in the frequency of de novo [PSI+] formation with chronological age of yeast cells, more so in an atg1 mutant relative to the wild-type. Autophagy competent cells carrying the [PSI+] and [PIN+] prions also had improved chronological lifespan relative to prion free cells and atg1 cells. Cells carrying the [PSI+] prion elicited elevated autophagic flux that may promote improved lifespan thus suggesting a beneficial role of the [PSI+] prion during chronological ageing. The actin cytoskeleton provides the structural framework essential for a multitude of cellular processes to occur. We investigated the role of the Arp2/3 complex responsible for branching of actin filaments towards prion formation. Knockout mutants of the nucleation promoting factors of the Arp2/3 complex, in particular the abp1 mutant, showed reduced de novo [PSI+] formation and Sup35 aggregation under basal and oxidative stress conditions. Similarly, treatment with latrunclin A, an actin monomer-sequestering drug also abrogated de novo [PSI+] formation. Colocalization studies revealed that Sup35 often does not colocalize with Rnq1, a marker for the insoluble protein deposit (IPOD) in an abp1 mutant. This suggests a role for the Abp1 protein in the efficient transport of Sup35 molecules to the IPOD that may facilitate de novo [PSI+] prion formation under vegetative states and oxidant challenges.
Supervisor: Grant, Christopher Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Prions ; Chronological ageing ; Actin cytoskeleton ; Oxidative stress ; Yeast ; Autophagy