Decoding the role of coiled-coil motifs in human prion-like proteins

Molood Behbahanipour, Javier García-Pardo, Salvador Ventura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Prions are self-propagating proteins that cause fatal neurodegenerative diseases in humans. However, increasing evidence suggests that eukaryotic cells exploit prion conformational conversion for functional purposes. A recent study delineated a group of twenty prion-like proteins in humans, characterized by the presence of low-complexity glutamine-rich sequences with overlapping coiled-coil (CCs) motifs. This is the case of Mediator complex subunit 15 (MED15), which is overexpressed in a wide range of human cancers. Biophysical studies demonstrated that the prion-like domain (PrLD) of MED15 forms homodimers in solution, sustained by CCs interactions. Furthermore, the same coiled-coil (CC) region plays a crucial role in the PrLD structural transition to a transmissible β-sheet amyloid state. In this review, we discuss the role of CCs motifs and their contribution to amyloid transitions in human prion-like domains (PrLDs), while providing a comprehensive overview of six predicted human prion-like proteins involved in transcription, gene expression, or DNA damage response and associated with human disease, whose PrLDs contain or overlap with CCs sequences. Finally, we try to rationalize how these molecular signatures might relate to both their function and involvement in disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-154
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2021


  • Prions
  • amyloids
  • coiled-coils
  • prion-like domains
  • protein aggregation


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