Conformation of PrPC on the cell surface as probed by antibodies

Estelle Leclerc, David Peretz, Haydn Ball, Laura Solforosi, Giuseppe Legname, Jiri Safar, Ana Serban, Stanley B. Prusiner, Dennis R. Burton, R. Anthony Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


We have investigated the conformation of Syrian hamster PrPC on the surface of transfected CHO cells by performing cross-competition experiments between a set of nine monoclonal antibody fragments (Fab) directed to defined epitopes throughout the protein. No competition was observed between antibodies recognizing epitopes located within the unstructured N-terminal portion of PrPC and those recognizing epitopes located within the ordered C-terminal half of the molecule. However, competition was observed between antibodies recognizing overlapping epitopes and between antibodies recognizing epitopes lying adjacent to one another in the PrP sequence. Titrating the reactivity of each Fab against cell-surface PrPC revealed a clear heterogeneity in the accessibility of different specific epitopes. Fab D18, recognizing sequence incorporating the first α-helix of PrPC, bound the largest fraction of the cell-surface PrP population. In contrast, Fab E123, binding an epitope at the extreme N terminus of PrP, and Fab 13A5, binding an epitope in the central region of PrP, were able to recognize fewer than half the number of PrPC molecules bound by Fab D18. The pattern of antibody reactivity we observed may, in part, result from N-terminal truncation of a proportion of PrPC molecules found at the cell surface. However, truncation cannot account for the marked disparity between exposure of the Fab D18 and 13A5 epitopes, which lie adjacent in the PrP sequence. The relative inaccessibility of the 13A5 epitope likely reflects either PrPC-PrPC interaction, interaction between PrPC and other constituents on the cell membrane, or the existence of PrPC subspecies with distinct conformations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-483
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 14 2003


  • Antibody
  • Cell surface
  • Conformational change
  • Flow cytometry
  • Prion protein (PrP)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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