Prions are protein aggregates that can be transmitted between cells and are associated with human diseases including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and in neurodegeneration as observed in ALS. Despite the important role of prion-like domains in human diseases, much about them remains a mystery.

An international team of researchers,  including Rohit Pappu, the Edwin H. Murty Professor of Engineering at Washington University’s School of Engineering & Applied Science, and Louis has identified a benign but biologically relevant function of prion domains. The team also includes Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG), and the Biotechnology Center of the TU Dresden (BIOTEC).

Uncovering this function is an essential first step to understanding the biological role of prion domains, and their transformation into a pathological disease-causing state.

The new findings were recently published in Science.