Thermodynamic and Voltammetric Characterization of the Metal Binding to the Prion Protein: Insights into pH Dependence and Redox Chemistry

Paul Davies, Frank Marken, S Salter, David R Brown

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50 Citations (SciVal)


The prion protein is a high-affinity copper binding protein that plays a role in the neurodegenerative prion diseases when it is converted into an altered isoform. The function of the protein remains controversial, but its relationship to its metallochemistry has prompted further investigation. While many researchers continue to use short peptide models for binding studies, the clear discrepancy between data obtained with such models when compared to those of full-length recombinant proteins requires clarification with this more appropriate model. Isothermal titration calorimetry was used to assess metal affinity for PrP. Using both full-length native and recombinant prion protein, we have demonstrated that the prion protein binds copper but has little affinity for other metals. Metal binding is highly pH sensitive, being optimal at pH 7.5 for copper, nickel, and zinc and at pH 5.5 for iron. Metal binding affinity for PrP was not altered by protein glycosylation. The use of suitable thermodynamic modeling reveals complex and cooperative copper binding, with evidence of negative cooperativity within the octarepeat region. Cyclic voltammetry was utilized to assess the electrochemistry of copper-charged prion protein, and we show that mPrP has a redox potential of 0.03 +/- 0.01 V versus the saturated calomel electrode at pH 7. The analysis also indicated that PrP is able to undergo reversible redox cycling with equal oxidative and reductive charges that are largely dependent on the copper bound to the octarepeat. The fifth site provides a small contribution to this redox activity, but only when the octarepeat is present. These results show conclusively that PrP can utilize copper for electron transfer, which would be expected for a radical detoxifying enzyme, and that the octarepeat region is the functional domain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2610-2619
Number of pages10
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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