Prions may not just be culprits in disease -- they may also do some good, new research shows. Proteins prone to morph into prions are widespread in yeast, and may benefit the organism by helping it adapt to a changing environment, scientists report in this week's Cell.
The results are "fascinating," and "biologically very significant," said Liming Li, a biochemist at Northwestern University who studies yeast prions but was not involved in the research. The findings bolster the idea that some prions play a role in epigenetic regulation of gene expression, she said. Previous studies showed that three or four yeast proteins could form prions, but Susan Lindquist, a molecular biologist at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Mass., and her colleagues wanted to see whether prion-forming proteins were widespread in yeast. The team surveyed the genome for traits common to known prions-- regions rich...
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