The effects of glutamine/asparagine content on aggregation and heterologous prion induction by yeast prion-like domains

Prion-like domains are low complexity, intrinsically disordered domains that compositionally resemble yeast prion domains. Many prion-like domains are involved in the formation of either functional or pathogenic protein aggregates. These aggregates range from highly dynamic liquid droplets to highly ordered detergent-insoluble amyloid-like aggregates. To better understand the amino acid sequence features that promote conversion to stable, detergent-insoluble aggregates, we used the prediction algorithm PAPA to identify predicted aggregation-prone prion-like domains with a range of compositions. While almost all of the predicted aggregation-prone domains formed foci when expressed in cells, the ability to form the detergent-insoluble aggregates was highly correlated with glutamine/asparagine (Q/N) content, suggesting that high Q/N content may specifically promote conversion to the amyloid state in vivo. We then used this data set to examine cross-seeding between prion-like proteins. The prion protein Sup35 requires the presence of a second prion, [PIN+], to efficiently form prions, but this requirement can be circumvented by the expression of various Q/N-rich protein fragments. Interestingly, almost all of the Q/N-rich domains that formed SDS-insoluble aggregates were able to promote prion formation by Sup35, highlighting the highly promiscuous nature of these interactions.