Prion proteins have the unusual capacity to fold into two functionally distinct conformations, one of which is self-perpetuating. When yeast prion proteins switch state, they produce heritable phenotypes. We report prion-like properties in a neuronal member of the CPEB family (cytoplasmic polyadenylation element binding protein), which regulates mRNA translation. Compared to other CPEB family members, the neuronal protein has an N-terminal extension that shares characteristics of yeast prion-determinants: a high glutamine content and predicted conformational flexibility. When fused to a reporter protein in yeast, this region confers upon it the epigenetic changes in state that characterize yeast prions. Full-length CPEB undergoes similar changes, but surprisingly it is the dominant, self-perpetuating prion-like form that has the greatest capacity to stimulate translation of CPEB-regulated mRNA. We hypothesize that conversion of CPEB to a prion-like state in stimulated synapses helps to maintain long-term synaptic changes associated with memory storage.
Si, K., Lindquist, S., & Kandel, E. R. (2003). A Neuronal Isoform of the Aplysia CPEB Has Prion-Like Properties. Cell, 115(7), 879–891. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0092-8674(03)01020-1