Domain organization and structure–function relationship of the HET-s prion protein of Podospora anserina
The [Het-s] infectious element of the fungus Podospora anserina is a prion protein involved in a genetically controlled cell death reaction termed heterokaryon incompatibility. Previous analyses indicate that [Het-s] propagates as a self-perpetuating amyloid aggregate. The HET-s protein is 289 amino acids in length. Herein, we identify the region of the HET-s protein that is responsible for amyloid formation and prion propagation. The region of HET-s spanning residues 218–289 forms amyloid fibers in vitro and allows prion propagation in vivo. Conversely, a C-terminal deletion in HET-s prevents amyloid aggregation in vitro and prion propagation in vivo, and abolishes the incompatibility function. In the soluble form of HET-s, the region from residue 1 to 227 forms a well-folded domain while the C-terminal region is highly flexible. Together, our data establish a domain structure–function relationship for HET-s amyloid formation, prion propagation and incompatibility activity.