The misfolding and aggregation of specific proteins is a common hallmark of many neurodegenerative disorders, including highly prevalent illnesses such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, as well as rarer disorders such as Huntington's and prion diseases. Among these, only prion diseases are ‘infectious’. By seeding misfolding of the PrPC (normal conformer prion protein) into PrPSc (abnormal disease-specific conformation of prion protein), prions spread from the periphery of the body to the central nervous system and can also be transmitted between individuals of the same or different species. However, recent exciting data suggest that the transmissibility of misfolded proteins within the brain is a property that goes way beyond the rare prion diseases. Evidence indicates that non-prion aggregates [tau, α-syn (α-synuclein), Aβ (amyloid-β) and Htt (huntingtin) aggregates] can also move between cells and seed the misfolding of their normal conformers. These findings have enormous implications. On the one hand they question the therapeutical use of transplants, and on the other they indicate that it may be possible to bring these diseases to an early arrest by preventing cell-to-cell transmission. To better understand the prion-like spread of these protein aggregates it is essential to identify the underlying cellular and molecular factors. In the present review we analyse and discuss the evidence supporting prion-like spreading of amyloidogenic proteins, especially focusing on the cellular and molecular mechanisms and their significance.

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