The transfer of phenotypes from one individual to another is a fundamental aspect of biology. In addition to traditional nucleic acid-based genetic determinants, unique proteins known as prions can also act as elements of inheritance, infectivity, and disease. Nucleic acids and proteins encode genetic information in distinct ways, either in the sequence of bases in DNA or RNA or in the three dimensional structure of the polypeptide chain. Given these differences in the nature of the genetic repository, the mechanisms underlying the transmission of nucleic acid-based and protein-based phenotypes are necessarily distinct. While the appearance, persistence and transfer of nucleic acid determinants require the synthesis of new polymers, recent studies indicate that prions are propagated through dynamic transitions in the structure of existing protein.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology
- Infectious Diseases