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International Journal of Cell Biology
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 560421, 18 pages
Research Article

Early Delivery of Misfolded PrP from ER to Lysosomes by Autophagy

1Departments of Neurology, MC2030, The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, 5841 S. Maryland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, USA
2Departments of Neurobiology, The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, Chicago, IL 60637, USA

Received 12 May 2013; Accepted 20 September 2013

Academic Editor: Roberto Chiesa

Copyright © 2013 Constanza J. Cortes et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Prion diseases are linked to the accumulation of a misfolded isoform (PrPSc) of prion protein (PrP). Evidence suggests that lysosomes are degradation endpoints and sites of the accumulation of PrPSc. We questioned whether lysosomes participate in the early quality control of newly generated misfolded PrP. We found PrP carrying the disease-associated T182A mutation (Mut-PrP) was delivered to lysosomes in a Golgi-independent manner. Time-lapse live cell imaging revealed early formation and uptake of GFP-tagged Mut-PrP aggregates into LysoTracker labeled vesicles. Compared with Wt-PrP, Mut-PrP expression was associated with an elevation in several markers of the autophagy-lysosomal pathway, and it extensively colocalized with the autophagosome-specific marker, LC3B. In autophagy deficient (ATG5−/−) mouse embryonic fibroblasts, or in normal cells treated with the autophagy-inhibitor 3-MA, Mut-PrP colocalization with lysosomes was reduced to a similar extent. Additionally, 3-MA selectively impaired the degradation of insoluble Mut-PrP, resulting in an increase in protease-resistant PrP, whereas the induction of autophagy by rapamycin reduced it. These findings suggest that autophagy might function as a quality control mechanism to limit the accumulation of misfolded PrP that normally leads to the generation of PrPSc.