We used two chemical modifiers, tetranitromethane (TNM) and acetic anhydride (Ac2O), which specifically target accessible tyrosine and lysine residues, respectively, to modify recombinant Syrian hamster PrP(90-231) [rSHaPrP(90-231)] and SHaPrP 27-30, the proteinase K-resistant core of PrP Sc isolated from brain of scrapie-infected Syrian hamsters. Our aim was to find locations of conformational change. Modified proteins were subjected to in-gel proteolytic digestion with trypsin or chymotrypsin and subsequent analysis by mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF). Several differences in chemical reactivity were observed. With TNM, the most conspicuous reactivity difference seen involves peptide E221-R229 (containing Y 225 and Y226), which in rSHaPrP(90-231) was much more extensively modified than in SHaPrP 27-30; peptide H111-R 136, containing Y128, was also more modified in rSHaPrP(90-231). Conversely, peptides Y149-R151, Y 157-R164, and R151-Y162 suffered more extensive modification in SHaPrP 27-30. Acetic anhydride modified very extensively peptide G90-K106, containing K101, K104, K106, and the amino terminus, in both rSHaPrP(90-231) and SHaPrP 27-30. These results suggest that (1) SHaPrP 27-30 exhibits important conformational differences in the C-terminal region with respect to rSHaPrP(90-231), resulting in the loss of solvent accessibility of Y225 and Y226, very solvent-exposed in the latter conformation; because other results suggest preservation of the two C-terminal helices, this might mean that these are tightly packed in SHaPrP 27-30. (2) On the other hand, tyrosines contained in the stretch spanning approximately Y 149-R164 are more accessible in SHaPrP 27-30, suggesting rearrangements in α-helix H1 and the short β-sheet of rSHaPrP(90-231). (3) The amino-terminal region of SHaPrP 27-30 is very accessible. These data should help in the validation and construction of structural models of PrPSc.
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