Protein Conformational Disease: Visit the Facts at a Glance


Proteins perform their function for adopting a particular 3D structure, referred as native structure, and failure to fold into the native structure has profound deleterious effects, frequently causing diseases. Such diseases, termed as protein conformational diseases, are a large group of disorders that arise from protein adopting abnormal conformational states. In the past two decades, it has been shown that conformational diseases affect large fraction of human population and present significant challenges to human health. Many protein conformational diseases are multifactorial diseases and result from very complicated molecular mechanisms. The most prominent disease‐associated phenomena of protein conformational diseases are toxic gain of function, loss of function, improper degradation and improper localisation. Furthermore, recent promising therapeutic approaches are developed for treating conformational disease.

Key Concepts

  • A remarkable relationship exists between the protein's functionality and specific three‐dimensional structure.
  • The energy landscape in protein folding resembles a rough funnel and proteins could be trapped in the intermediate states, resulting in misfolded proteins.
  • Protein conformational disease refers to the pathology that a protein adopts abnormal conformational states, disturbing the normal role of a protein in the cell.
  • Multiple phenomena including loss of function, toxic gain of function, improper degradation and localisation are associated with protein conformational diseases.
  • Protein conformational disease affects large human populations and developing therapeutic approach is a priority task for better public health.

Keywords: conformational disease; protein misfolding; protein aggregation; amyloid; proteostasis; therapeutic approach

Figure 1. Illustration of energy landscape of following energy gradient, unfolded proteins intend to fold into native state to perform their normal function. However, as the energy landscape is rough with many local minima, some proteins may be trapped, resulting in misfolded protein.
Figure 2. A simplified model of protein degradation and aggregation. Protein with nonnative conformations can be recognised by the so‐called protein quality control system and guided into degradation process. Misfolded proteins can cause aggregation and accumulation, developing into many conformational diseases.
Figure 3. A representative scheme of the main mechanism for protein conformational disease.


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Peng, Yunhui, and Alexov, Emil(Nov 2017) Protein Conformational Disease: Visit the Facts at a Glance. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0021868]