Prion diseases are unique pathologies in which the infectious particles are prions, a protein aggregate. The prion protein has many particular features, such as spontaneous aggregation, conformation transmission to other native PrP proteins and transmission from an individual to another. Protein aggregation is now frequently associated to many human diseases, for example Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease or type 2 diabetes. A few proteins associated to these conformational diseases are part of a new category of proteins, called prionoids: proteins that share some, but not all, of the characteristics associated with prions. The p53 protein, a transcription factor that plays a major role in cancer, has recently been suggested to be a possible prionoid. The protein has been shown to accumulate in multiple cancer cell types, and its aggregation has also been reproduced in vitro by many independent groups. These observations suggest a role for p53 aggregates in cancer development. This study aims to test the «prion-like» features of p53. Our results show in vitro aggregation of the full length and N-terminally truncated protein (p53C), and penetration of these aggregates into cells. According to our findings, the aggregates enter cells using macropinocytosis, a non-specific pathway of entry. Lastly, we also show that once internalized by the cell, p53C aggregates can co-aggregate with endogenous p53 protein. Together, these findings suggest prion-like characteristics for p53 protein, based on the fact that p53 can spontaneously aggregate, these aggregates can penetrate cells and co-aggregate with cellular p53. © 2013 Forget et al.
Forget, K. J., Tremblay, G., & Roucou, X. (2013). p53 Aggregates Penetrate Cells and Induce the Co-Aggregation of Intracellular p53. PLoS ONE, 8(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0069242