In response to environmental stress, human cells have been shown to form reversible amyloid aggregates within the nucleus, termed amyloid bodies (A-bodies). These protective physiological structures share many of the biophysical characteristics associated with the pathological amyloids found in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Here, we show that A-bodies are evolutionarily conserved across the eukaryotic domain, with their detection in Drosophila melanogaster and Saccharomyces cerevisiae marking the first examples of these functional amyloids being induced outside of a cultured cell setting. The conditions triggering amyloidogenesis varied significantly among the species tested, with results indicating that A-body formation is a severe, but sublethal, stress response pathway that is tailored to the environmental norms of an organism. RNA-sequencing analyses demonstrate that the regulatory low-complexity long non-coding RNAs that drive A-body aggregation are both conserved and essential in human, mouse and chicken cells. Thus, the identification of these natural and reversible functional amyloids in a variety of evolutionarily diverse species highlights the physiological significance of this protein conformation, and will be informative in advancing our understanding of both functional and pathological amyloid aggregation events.

This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.

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