St Petersburg University and St Petersburg branch of the Institute of General Genetics of RAS have described a new “polyprionic” inheritance in microorganisms. The research findings are published in PLOS Genetics.


The chromosomal theory of inheritance describes DNA-dependent changes in heritable traits. Discovering prion formation, i.e. proteins that convert between structurally distinct states, leads to the concept of “protein-based inheritance”. Prion conformational switches change protein functional activity and cause suppression of mutations, and such changes are inherited in unicellular organisms in meiosis.


 SPbU genetic scientists showed on Saccharomyces cerevisiae that heritable traits may appear not only due to a conformational switch of one protein but also can be caused by interactions between different prions.

— We have seen that yeast growth on the selective medium is determined by interaction of two prions in one cell, — said Aleksey Galkin, senior lecturer at SPbU and Director Deputy of SPbF IOGen of RAS. — Our data show that prion interactions may cause heritable traits.


 Thus, scientists from St Petersburg described a new “polyprionic” inheritance in microorganisms. The research was conducted at SPbU using unique equipment offered by the Resource Centre for Molecular and Cell Technologies at SPbU’s Resource Park.


 — We are planning to continue our research and primarily aimed to describe other examples of new inheritance in microorganisms, — said Aleksey Galkin. — Probably, this type of inheritance might be typical to the mammals.


 Learn more: Interaction of Prions Causes Heritable Traitsin Saccharomyces cerevisiae, published in PLOS Genetics.