Using budding yeast to screen for anti-prion drugs



Prions are misfolded proteins capable of propagating their altered conformation which are commonly considered as the causative agent of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, a class of fatal neurodegenerative diseases. Currently, no treatment for prion-based diseases is available. Recently we have developed a rapid, yeast-based, two-step assay to screen for anti-prion drugs [1]. This new method allowed us to identify several compounds that are effective in vivo against budding yeast [PSI+] and [URE3] prions but also able to promote mammalian prion clearance in three different cell culture-based assays. Taken together, these results validate our method as an economic and efficient high-throughput screening approach to identify novel prion inhibitors or to carry on comprehensive structure-activity studies for already isolated anti-mammalian prion drugs. These results suggest furthermore that biochemical pathways controlling prion formation and/or maintenance are conserved from yeast to human and thus amenable to pharmacological and genetic analysis. Finally, it would be very interesting to test active drugs isolated using the yeast-based assay in models for other diseases (neurodegenerative or not) involving amyloid fibers like Huntington's, Parkinson's or Alzheimer's diseases.