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1.  Possible Case of Maternal Transmission of Feline Spongiform Encephalopathy in a Captive Cheetah 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(9):e6929.
Feline spongiform encephalopathy (FSE) is considered to be related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and has been reported in domestic cats as well as in captive wild cats including cheetahs, first in the United Kingdom (UK) and then in other European countries. In France, several cases were described in cheetahs either imported from UK or born in France. Here we report details of two other FSE cases in captive cheetah including a 2nd case of FSE in a cheetah born in France, most likely due to maternal transmission. Complete prion protein immunohistochemical study on both brains and peripheral organs showed the close likeness between the two cases. In addition, transmission studies to the TgOvPrP4 mouse line were also performed, for comparison with the transmission of cattle BSE. The TgOvPrP4 mouse brains infected with cattle BSE and cheetah FSE revealed similar vacuolar lesion profiles, PrPd brain mapping with occurrence of typical florid plaques. Collectively, these data indicate that they harbor the same strain of agent as the cattle BSE agent. This new observation may have some impact on our knowledge of vertical transmission of BSE agent-linked TSEs such as in housecat FSE, or vCJD.
PMCID: PMC2732902  PMID: 19738899
2.  Genetic Predictions of Prion Disease Susceptibility in Carnivore Species Based on Variability of the Prion Gene Coding Region 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e50623.
Mammalian species vary widely in their apparent susceptibility to prion diseases. For example, several felid species developed prion disease (feline spongiform encephalopathy or FSE) during the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) epidemic in the United Kingdom, whereas no canine BSE cases were detected. Whether either of these or other groups of carnivore species can contract other prion diseases (e.g. chronic wasting disease or CWD) remains an open question. Variation in the host-encoded prion protein (PrPC) largely explains observed disease susceptibility patterns within ruminant species, and may explain interspecies differences in susceptibility as well. We sequenced and compared the open reading frame of the PRNP gene encoding PrPC protein from 609 animal samples comprising 29 species from 22 genera of the Order Carnivora; amongst these samples were 15 FSE cases. Our analysis revealed that FSE cases did not encode an identifiable disease-associated PrP polymorphism. However, all canid PrPs contained aspartic acid or glutamic acid at codon 163 which we propose provides a genetic basis for observed susceptibility differences between canids and felids. Among other carnivores studied, wolverine (Gulo gulo) and pine marten (Martes martes) were the only non-canid species to also express PrP-Asp163, which may impact on their prion diseases susceptibility. Populations of black bear (Ursus americanus) and mountain lion (Puma concolor) from Colorado showed little genetic variation in the PrP protein and no variants likely to be highly resistant to prions in general, suggesting that strain differences between BSE and CWD prions also may contribute to the limited apparent host range of the latter.
PMCID: PMC3517517  PMID: 23236380
3.  Susceptibility of Domestic Cats to Chronic Wasting Disease 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(4):1947-1956.
Domestic and nondomestic cats have been shown to be susceptible to feline spongiform encephalopathy (FSE), almost certainly caused by consumption of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)-contaminated meat. Because domestic and free-ranging nondomestic felids scavenge cervid carcasses, including those in areas affected by chronic wasting disease (CWD), we evaluated the susceptibility of the domestic cat (Felis catus) to CWD infection experimentally. Cohorts of 5 cats each were inoculated intracerebrally (i.c.) or orally (p.o.) with CWD-infected deer brain. At 40 and 42 months postinoculation, two i.c.-inoculated cats developed signs consistent with prion disease, including a stilted gait, weight loss, anorexia, polydipsia, patterned motor behaviors, head and tail tremors, and ataxia, and the cats progressed to terminal disease within 5 months. Brains from these two cats were pooled and inoculated into cohorts of cats by the i.c., p.o., and intraperitoneal and subcutaneous (i.p./s.c.) routes. Upon subpassage, feline CWD was transmitted to all i.c.-inoculated cats with a decreased incubation period of 23 to 27 months. Feline-adapted CWD (FelCWD) was demonstrated in the brains of all of the affected cats by Western blotting and immunohistochemical analysis. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed abnormalities in clinically ill cats, which included multifocal T2 fluid attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) signal hyperintensities, ventricular size increases, prominent sulci, and white matter tract cavitation. Currently, 3 of 4 i.p./s.c.- and 2 of 4 p.o. secondary passage-inoculated cats have developed abnormal behavior patterns consistent with the early stage of feline CWD. These results demonstrate that CWD can be transmitted and adapted to the domestic cat, thus raising the issue of potential cervid-to-feline transmission in nature.
PMCID: PMC3571486  PMID: 23236066
4.  An overview of animal prion diseases 
Virology Journal  2011;8:493.
Prion diseases are transmissible neurodegenerative conditions affecting human and a wide range of animal species. The pathogenesis of prion diseases is associated with the accumulation of aggregates of misfolded conformers of host-encoded cellular prion protein (PrPC). Animal prion diseases include scrapie of sheep and goats, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease, transmissible mink encephalopathy, feline spongiform encephalopathy, exotic ungulate spongiform encephalopathy, chronic wasting disease of cervids and spongiform encephalopathy of primates. Although some cases of sporadic atypical scrapie and BSE have also been reported, animal prion diseases have basically occurred via the acquisition of infection from contaminated feed or via the exposure to contaminated environment. Scrapie and chronic wasting disease are naturally sustaining epidemics. The transmission of BSE to human has caused more than 200 cases of variant Cruetzfeldt-Jacob disease and has raised serious public health concerns. The present review discusses the epidemiology, clinical neuropathology, transmissibility and genetics of animal prion diseases.
PMCID: PMC3228711  PMID: 22044871
Prion diseases; scrapie; BSE; chronic wasting disease; PRNP
5.  Discriminant analysis of prion sequences for prediction of susceptibility 
Prion diseases, including ovine scrapie, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), human kuru and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD), originate from a conformational change of the normal cellular prion protein (PrPC) into abnormal protease-resistant prion protein (PrPSc). There is concern regarding these prion diseases because of the possibility of their zoonotic infections across species. Mutations and polymorphisms of prion sequences may influence prion-disease susceptibility through the modified expression and conformation of proteins. Rapid determination of susceptibility based on prion-sequence polymorphism information without complex structural and molecular biological analyses may be possible. Information regarding the effects of mutations and polymorphisms on prion-disease susceptibility was collected based on previous studies to classify the susceptibilities of sequences, whereas the BLOSUM62 scoring matrix and the position-specific scoring matrix were utilised to determine the distance of target sequences. The k-nearest neighbour analysis was validated with cross-validation methods. The results indicated that the number of polymorphisms did not influence prion-disease susceptibility, and three and four k-objects showed the best accuracy in identifying the susceptible group. Although sequences with negative polymorphisms showed relatively high accuracy for determination, polymorphisms may still not be an appropriate factor for estimating variation in susceptibility. Discriminant analysis of prion sequences with scoring matrices was attempted as a possible means of determining susceptibility to prion diseases. Further research is required to improve the utility of this method.
PMCID: PMC3809358  PMID: 24113272
discriminant analysis; polymorphism; prion; substitution score matrix; susceptibility
6.  The prion strain phenomenon: Molecular basis and unprecedented features 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2006;1772(6):681-691.
Prions are unconventional infectious agents responsible for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Compelling evidences indicate that prions are composed exclusively by a misfolded form of the prion protein (PrPSc) that replicates in the absence of nucleic acids. One of the most challenging problems for the prion hypothesis is the existence of different strains of the infectious agent. Prion strains have been characterized in most of the species. Biochemical characteristics of PrPSc used to identify each strain include glycosylation profile, electrophoretic mobility, protease resistance, and sedimentation. In vivo, prion strains can be differentiated by the clinical signs, incubation period after inoculation and the vacuolation lesion profiles in the brain of affected animals. Sources of prion strain diversity are the inherent conformational flexibility of the prion protein, the presence of PrP polymorphisms and inter-species transmissibility. The existence of the strain phenomenon is not only a scientific challenge, but it also represents a serious risk for public health. The dynamic nature and inter-relations between strains and the potential for the generation of a very large number of new prion strains is the perfect recipe for the emergence of extremely dangerous new infectious agents.
PMCID: PMC2597801  PMID: 17254754
7.  Getting a grip on prions: oligomers, amyloids and pathological membrane interactions 
Annual review of biochemistry  2009;78:177-204.
The prion (infectious protein) concept has evolved with the discovery of new self-propagating protein states in organisms as diverse as mammals and fungi. The infectious agent of the mammalian transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) has long been considered to be the prototypical prion, and recent cell-free propagation and biophysical analyses of TSE infectivity have now firmly established its prion credentials. Other disease-associated protein aggregates, such as some amyloids, can also have prion-like characteristics under certain experimental conditions. However, most amyloids appear to lack the natural transmissibility of TSE prions. One feature that distinguishes the latter from the former is the glycophosphatidylinositol membrane anchor on prion protein, the molecule that is corrupted in TSE diseases. The presence of this anchor profoundly affects TSE pathogenesis, which involves major membrane distortions in the brain, and may be a key reason for the greater neurovirulence of TSE prions relative to many other autocatalytic protein aggregates.
PMCID: PMC2794486  PMID: 19231987
protein misfolding diseases; glycophosphatidylinositol anchor; exosomes; tunneling nanotubes; membranes
8.  Intraepithelial and Interstitial Deposition of Pathological Prion Protein in Kidneys of Scrapie-Affected Sheep 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(9):e859.
Prions have been documented in extra-neuronal and extra-lymphatic tissues of humans and various ruminants affected by Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE). The presence of prion infectivity detected in cervid and ovine blood tempted us to reason that kidney, the organ filtrating blood derived proteins, may accumulate disease associated PrPSc. We collected and screened kidneys of experimentally, naturally scrapie-affected and control sheep for renal deposition of PrPSc from distinct, geographically separated flocks. By performing Western blot, PET blot analysis and immunohistochemistry we found intraepithelial (cortex, medulla and papilla) and occasional interstitial (papilla) deposition of PrPSc in kidneys of scrapie-affected sheep. Interestingly, glomerula lacked detectable signals indicative of PrPSc. PrPSc was also detected in kidneys of subclinical sheep, but to significantly lower degree. Depending on the stage of the disease the incidence of PrPSc in kidney varied from approximately 27% (subclinical) to 73.6% (clinical) in naturally scrapie-affected sheep. Kidneys from flocks without scrapie outbreak were devoid of PrPSc. Here we demonstrate unexpectedly frequent deposition of high levels of PrPSc in ovine kidneys of various flocks. Renal deposition of PrPSc is likely to be a pre-requisite enabling prionuria, a possible co-factor of horizontal prion-transmission in sheep.
PMCID: PMC1964536  PMID: 17848990
9.  From Prion Diseases to Prion-Like Propagation Mechanisms of Neurodegenerative Diseases 
Prion diseases are fatal neurodegenerative sporadic, inherited, or acquired disorders. In humans, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is the most studied prion disease. In animals, the most frequent prion diseases are scrapie in sheep and goat, bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle, and the emerging chronic wasting disease in wild and captive deer in North America. The hallmark of prion diseases is the deposition in the brain of PrPSc, an abnormal β-sheet-rich form of the cellular prion protein (PrPC) (Prusiner 1982). According to the prion hypothesis, PrPSc can trigger the autocatalytic conversion of PrPC into PrPSc, presumably in the presence of cofactors (lipids and small RNAs) that have been recently identified. In this review, we will come back to the original works that led to the discovery of prions and to the protein-only hypothesis proposed by Dr. Prusiner. We will then describe the recent reports on mammalian synthetic prions and recombinant prions that strongly support the protein-only hypothesis. The new concept of “deformed templating” regarding a new mechanism of PrPSc formation and replication will be exposed. The review will end with a chapter on the prion-like propagation of other neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and tauopathies.
PMCID: PMC3810426  PMID: 24222767
10.  Immunohistochemical study of PrPSc distribution in neural and extraneural tissues of two cats with feline spongiform encephalopathy 
Two domestic shorthair cats presenting with progressive hind-limb ataxia and increased aggressiveness were necropsied and a post mortem diagnosis of Feline Spongiform Encephalopathy (FSE) was made. A wide spectrum of tissue samples was collected and evaluated histologically and immunohistologically for the presence of PrPSc.
Histopathological examination revealed a diffuse vacuolation of the grey matter neuropil with the following areas being most severely affected: corpus geniculatum medialis, thalamus, gyrus dentatus of the hippocampus, corpus striatum, and deep layers of the cerebral and cerebellar cortex as well as in the brain stem. In addition, a diffuse glial reaction involving astrocytes and microglia and intraneuronal vacuolation in a few neurons in the brain stem was present.
Heavy PrPSc immunostaining was detected in brain, retina, optic nerve, pars nervosa of the pituitary gland, trigeminal ganglia and small amounts in the myenteric plexus of the small intestine (duodenum, jejunum) and slightly in the medulla of the adrenal gland.
The PrPSc distribution within the brain was consistent with that described in other FSE-affected cats. The pattern of abnormal PrP in the retina corresponded to that found in a captive cheetah with FSE, in sheep with scrapie and was similar to nvCJD in humans.
PMCID: PMC2673214  PMID: 19335885
11.  Bacterial Colitis Increases Susceptibility to Oral Prion Disease 
Dietary exposure to prion-contaminated materials has caused kuru and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, and transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) of cattle, mink, and felines. The epidemiology of dietary prion infections suggest that host genetic modifiers, and possibly exogenous cofactors, may play a decisive role in determining disease susceptibility. However, few cofactors influencing prion susceptibility have been identified. Here we investigated whether colitis might represent one such cofactor. We report that moderate colitis caused by an attenuated strain of Salmonella more than doubles the susceptibility of mice to oral prion infection, and modestly accelerates the development of disease after prion challenge. The prion protein was upregulated in intestines and mesenteric lymph nodes of mice with colitis, providing a possible mechanism for the impact of colitis onto prion pathogenesis. Therefore, moderate intestinal inflammation at the time of prion exposure may constitute one of the elusive risk factors underlying the development of TSE.
PMCID: PMC2822447  PMID: 19072552
Prion; TSE; Oral infection; Susceptibility; Salmonella; Neurodegeneration; Colitis
12.  The cellular prion protein and its role in Alzheimer disease 
Prion  2009;3(2):110-117.
The cellular prion protein (PrPC) is a membrane-bound glycoprotein especially abundant in the central nervous system (CNS). The scrapie prion protein (PrPSc, also termed prions) is responsible of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE), a group of neurodegenerative diseases which affect humans and other mammal species, although the presence of PrPC is needed for the establishment and further evolution of prions.
The present work compares the expression and localization of PrPC between healthy human brains and those suffering from Alzheimer disease (AD).
In both situations we have observed a rostrocaudal decrease in the amount of PrPC within the CNS, both by immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry techniques. PrPC is higher expressed in our control brains than in AD cases. There was a neuronal loss and astogliosis in our AD cases. There was a tendency of a lesser expression of PrPC in AD cases than in healthy ones. And in AD cases, the intensity of the expression of the unglycosylated band is higher than the di- and monoglycosylated bands.
With regards to amyloid plaques, those present in AD cases were positively labeled for PrPC, a result which is further supported by the presence of PrPC in the amyloid plaques of a transgenic line of mice mimicking AD.
The work was done according to Helsinki Declaration of 1975, and approved by the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Navarre.
PMCID: PMC2712608  PMID: 19556894
cellular prion protein; Alzheimer disease; transgenic mice
13.  Generation of Antibodies against Bovine Recombinant Prion Protein in Various Strains of Mice 
Clinical and Vaccine Immunology  2006;13(1):98-105.
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), also known as prion diseases, belong to a group of neurodegenerative disorders affecting humans and animals. To date, definite diagnosis of prion disease can only be made by analysis of tissue samples for the presence of protease-resistant misfolded prion protein (PrPSc). Monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to the prion protein provide valuable tools for TSE diagnosis, as well as for basic research on these diseases. In this communication, the development of antibodies against recombinant bovine prion protein (brecPrP) in four strains of mice (BALB/c, ND4, SJL, and NZB/NZW F1) is described. Immunization of autoimmunity-prone NZB/NZW F1 and SJL mice with brecPrP was applied to overcome self-tolerance against the prion protein. ND4 and SJL mice did not develop an immune response to brecPrP. BALB/c mice produced antibody titers of 1:1,000 to 1:1,500 in an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), while NZB/NZW F1 mice responded with titers of 1:7,000 to 1:11,000. A panel of 71 anti-brecPrP MAbs recognizing continuous and discontinuous epitopes was established from BALB/c and NZB/NZW F1 mice. Seven anti-brecPrP MAbs reacted with both the cellular form of PrP and protease K-resistant PrPSc from sheep brain in Western blot assays. The epitope specificity of these MAbs was determined, and applicability to immunohistochemical detection of prions was studied. The MAbs generated will be useful tools in the development of TSE immunochemical diagnosis and for research. This is the first report of the development of anti-PrP MAbs by use of autoimmune NZB/NZW F1 mice as an alternative approach for the generation of PrP-specific MAbs.
PMCID: PMC1356621  PMID: 16426006
14.  Prions in Milk from Ewes Incubating Natural Scrapie 
PLoS Pathogens  2008;4(12):e1000238.
Since prion infectivity had never been reported in milk, dairy products originating from transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE)-affected ruminant flocks currently enter unrestricted into the animal and human food chain. However, a recently published study brought the first evidence of the presence of prions in mammary secretions from scrapie-affected ewes. Here we report the detection of consistent levels of infectivity in colostrum and milk from sheep incubating natural scrapie, several months prior to clinical onset. Additionally, abnormal PrP was detected, by immunohistochemistry and PET blot, in lacteal ducts and mammary acini. This PrPSc accumulation was detected only in ewes harbouring mammary ectopic lymphoid follicles that developed consequent to Maedi lentivirus infection. However, bioassay revealed that prion infectivity was present in milk and colostrum, not only from ewes with such lympho-proliferative chronic mastitis, but also from those displaying lesion-free mammary glands. In milk and colostrum, infectivity could be recovered in the cellular, cream, and casein-whey fractions. In our samples, using a Tg 338 mouse model, the highest per ml infectious titre measured was found to be equivalent to that contained in 6 µg of a posterior brain stem from a terminally scrapie-affected ewe. These findings indicate that both colostrum and milk from small ruminants incubating TSE could contribute to the animal TSE transmission process, either directly or through the presence of milk-derived material in animal feedstuffs. It also raises some concern with regard to the risk to humans of TSE exposure associated with milk products from ovine and other TSE-susceptible dairy species.
Author Summary
A decade ago, a new variant form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease was identified. The emergence of this prion disease in humans was the consequence of the zoonotic transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy through dietary exposure. Since then, the control of human exposure to prions has become a priority, and a policy based on the exclusion of known infectious materials from the food chain has been implemented. Because all investigations carried out failed to reveal evidence of infectivity in milk from affected ruminants, this product has continuously been considered as safe. In this study, we demonstrate the presence of prions in colostrum and milk from sheep incubating natural scrapie and displaying apparently healthy mammary glands. This finding indicates that milk from small ruminants could contribute to the transmission of prion disease between animals. It also raises some concern with regard to the risk to humans associated with milk products from ovine and other dairy species.
PMCID: PMC2587713  PMID: 19079578
15.  Prion Protein Misfolding and Disease 
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs or prion diseases) are a rare group of invariably fatal neurodegenerative disorders that affect humans and other mammals. TSEs are protein misfolding diseases that involve the accumulation of an abnormally aggregated form of the normal host prion protein. They are unique among protein misfolding disorders in that they are transmissible and have different strains of infectious agent that are associated with unique phenotypes in vivo. A wealth of biological and biophysical evidence now suggests that the molecular basis for prion diseases may be encoded by protein conformation. The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of the existing structural information for prion protein within the context of what is known about the biology of prion disease.
PMCID: PMC2674794  PMID: 19157856
16.  Production of cattle lacking prion protein 
Nature biotechnology  2006;25(1):132.
Prion diseases are caused by propagation of misfolded forms of the normal cellular prion protein PrPC, such as PrPBSE in bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle and PrPCJD in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans1. Disruption of PrPC expression in mice, a species that does not naturally contract prion diseases, results in no apparent developmental abnormalities2–5. However, the impact of ablating PrPC function in natural host species of prion diseases is unknown. Here we report the generation and characterization of PrPC-deficient cattle produced by a sequential gene-targeting system6. At over 20 months of age, the cattle are clinically, physiologically, histopathologically, immunologically and reproductively normal. Brain tissue homogenates are resistant to prion propagation in vitro as assessed by protein misfolding cyclic amplification7. PrPC-deficient cattle may be a useful model for prion research and could provide industrial bovine products free of prion proteins.
PMCID: PMC2813193  PMID: 17195841
17.  Evaluation of the Possible Transmission of BSE and Scrapie to Gilthead Sea Bream (Sparus aurata) 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(7):e6175.
In transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), a group of fatal neurodegenerative disorders affecting many species, the key event in disease pathogenesis is the accumulation of an abnormal conformational isoform (PrPSc) of the host-encoded cellular prion protein (PrPC). While the precise mechanism of the PrPC to PrPSc conversion is not understood, it is clear that host PrPC expression is a prerequisite for effective infectious prion propagation. Although there have been many studies on TSEs in mammalian species, little is known about TSE pathogenesis in fish. Here we show that while gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata) orally challenged with brain homogenates prepared either from a BSE infected cow or from scrapie infected sheep developed no clinical prion disease, the brains of TSE-fed fish sampled two years after challenge did show signs of neurodegeneration and accumulation of deposits that reacted positively with antibodies raised against sea bream PrP. The control groups, fed with brains from uninfected animals, showed no such signs. Remarkably, the deposits developed much more rapidly and extensively in fish inoculated with BSE-infected material than in the ones challenged with the scrapie-infected brain homogenate, with numerous deposits being proteinase K-resistant. These plaque-like aggregates exhibited congophilia and birefringence in polarized light, consistent with an amyloid-like component. The neurodegeneration and abnormal deposition in the brains of fish challenged with prion, especially BSE, raises concerns about the potential risk to public health. As fish aquaculture is an economically important industry providing high protein nutrition for humans and other mammalian species, the prospect of farmed fish being contaminated with infectious mammalian PrPSc, or of a prion disease developing in farmed fish is alarming and requires further evaluation.
PMCID: PMC2712096  PMID: 19636413
18.  Variant-specific prion interactions 
Cellular Logistics  2013;3(1):e25698.
Prions are protein conformations that “self-seed” the misfolding of their non-prion iso-forms into prion, often amyloid, conformations. The most famous prion is the mammalian PrP protein that in its prion form causes transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. Curiously there can be distinct conformational differences even between prions of the same protein propagated in the same host species. These are called prion strains or variants. For example, different PrP variants are faithfully transmitted during self-seeding and are associated with distinct disease characteristics. Variant-specific PrP prion differences include the length of the incubation period before the disease appears and the deposition of prion aggregates in distinct regions of the brain.1 Other more common neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, type 2 diabetes and ALS) are likewise caused by the misfolding of a normal protein into a self-seeding aggregate.2-4 One of the most important unanswered questions is how the first prion-like seed arises de novo, resulting in the pathological cascade.
PMCID: PMC3891757  PMID: 24475372
yeast; prion; [PIN+]; [PSI+]
19.  Isolation from Cattle of a Prion Strain Distinct from That Causing Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy 
PLoS Pathogens  2006;2(10):e112.
To date, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and its human counterpart, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, have been associated with a single prion strain. This strain is characterised by a unique and remarkably stable biochemical profile of abnormal protease-resistant prion protein (PrPres) isolated from brains of affected animals or humans. However, alternate PrPres signatures in cattle have recently been discovered through large-scale screening. To test whether these also represent separate prion strains, we inoculated French cattle isolates characterised by a PrPres of higher apparent molecular mass—called H-type—into transgenic mice expressing bovine or ovine PrP. All mice developed neurological symptoms and succumbed to these isolates, showing that these represent a novel strain of infectious prions. Importantly, this agent exhibited strain-specific features clearly distinct from that of BSE agent inoculated to the same mice, which were retained on further passage. Moreover, it also differed from all sheep scrapie isolates passaged so far in ovine PrP-expressing mice. Our findings therefore raise the possibility that either various prion strains may exist in cattle, or that the BSE agent has undergone divergent evolution in some animals.
Prions are unconventional agents of proteic nature that are formed of abnormal conformations of the host-encoded prion protein (PrP). They cause fatal neurodegenerative diseases in both animals and humans, and can be transmitted between species as exemplified in humans by the emergence of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease following the epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United Kingdom. Since diagnosis of prion infection is only possible once the central nervous system has been invaded, brains of slaughtered or fallen cattle are routinely screened in Europe to protect the consumers from BSE. This has unexpectedly led to the discovery of unprecedented PrP conformations that were distinct from the single one associated so far with BSE or BSE-related diseases. To precisely determine their etiology, the authors have studied the transmissibility of these new conformations, termed H-type, to transgenic mice expressing either bovine or ovine PrP. They show that these cases are highly pathogenic for these mice. The authors also demonstrate that they are not directly related to the agent involved in the BSE epidemic, supporting the view for isolation of a new prion strain from cattle, whose prevalence and associated zoonotic risk should be carefully monitored in the future.
PMCID: PMC1617128  PMID: 17054396
20.  Persistence of Pathogenic Prion Protein during Simulated Wastewater Treatment Processes 
Environmental science & technology  2008;42(14):5254-5259.
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs, prion diseases) are a class of fatal neurodegenerative diseases affecting a variety of mammalian species including humans. A misfolded form of the prion protein (PrPTSE) is the major, if not sole, component of the infectious agent. Prions are highly resistant to degradation and to many disinfection procedures suggesting that, if prions enter wastewater treatment systems through sewers and/or septic systems (e.g., slaughterhouses, necropsy laboratories, rural meat processors, private game dressing) or through leachate from landfills that have received TSE-contaminated material, prions could survive conventional wastewater treatment. Here, we report the results of experiments examining the partitioning and persistence of PrPTSE during simulated wastewater treatment processes including activated and mesophilic anaerobic sludge digestion. Incubation with activated sludge did not result in significant PrPTSE degradation. PrPTSE and prion infectivity partitioned strongly to activated sludge solids and are expected to enter biosolids treatment processes. A large fraction of PrPTSE survived simulated mesophilic anaerobic sludge digestion. The small reduction in recoverable PrPTSE after 10-d anaerobic sludge digestion appeared attributable to a combination of declining extractability with time and microbial degradation. Our results suggest that if prions were to enter municipal wastewater treatment systems, most of the agent would partition to activated sludge solids, survive mesophilic anaerobic digestion, and be present in treated biosolids.
PMCID: PMC3087203  PMID: 18754377
21.  Disease-Associated Prion Protein in Neural and Lymphoid Tissues of Mink (Mustela vison) Inoculated with Transmissible Mink Encephalopathy 
Journal of comparative pathology  2012;147(4):508-521.
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are diagnosed by immunodetection of disease-associated prion protein (PrPd). The distribution of PrPd within the body varies with the time-course of infection and between species, during interspecies transmission, as well as with prion strain. Mink are susceptible to a form of TSE known as transmissible mink encephalopathy (TME), presumed to arise due to consumption of feed contaminated with a single prion strain of ruminant origin. After extended passage of TME isolates in hamsters, two strains emerge, HY and DY, each of which is associated with unique structural isoforms of PrPTME and of which only the HY strain is associated with accumulation of PrPTME in lymphoid tissues. Information on the structural nature and lymphoid accumulation of PrPTME in mink is limited. In this study, 13 mink were challenged by intracerebral inoculation using late passage TME inoculum after which brain and lymphoid tissues were collected at preclinical and clinical time points. The distribution and molecular nature of PrPTME was investigated by techniques including blotting of paraffin wax-embedded tissue and epitope mapping by western blotting. PrPTME was detected readily in the brain and retropharyngeal lymph node during preclinical infection with delayed progression of accumulation within other lymphoid tissues. For comparison, three mink were inoculated by the oral route and examined during clinical disease. Accumulation of PrPTME in these mink was greater and more widespread, including follicles of rectoanal mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue. Western blot analyses revealed that PrPTME accumulating in the brain of mink is structurally most similar to that accumulating in the brain of hamsters infected with the DY strain. Collectively, the results of extended passage in mink are consistent with the presence of only a single strain of TME, the DY strain, capable of inducing accumulation of PrPTME in the lymphoid tissues of mink but not in hamsters. Thus mink are a relevant animal model for further study of this unique strain, which ultimately may have been introduced through consumption of a TSE of ruminant origin.
PMCID: PMC3445750  PMID: 22595634
prion; transmissible mink encephalopathy; western blot; immunohistochemistry
22.  Cellular Aspects of Prion Replication In Vitro 
Viruses  2013;5(1):374-405.
Prion diseases or transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are fatal neurodegenerative disorders in mammals that are caused by unconventional agents predominantly composed of aggregated misfolded prion protein (PrP). Prions self-propagate by recruitment of host-encoded PrP into highly ordered β-sheet rich aggregates. Prion strains differ in their clinical, pathological and biochemical characteristics and are likely to be the consequence of distinct abnormal prion protein conformers that stably replicate their alternate states in the host cell. Understanding prion cell biology is fundamental for identifying potential drug targets for disease intervention. The development of permissive cell culture models has greatly enhanced our knowledge on entry, propagation and dissemination of TSE agents. However, despite extensive research, the precise mechanism of prion infection and potential strain effects remain enigmatic. This review summarizes our current knowledge of the cell biology and propagation of prions derived from cell culture experiments. We discuss recent findings on the trafficking of cellular and pathologic PrP, the potential sites of abnormal prion protein synthesis and potential co-factors involved in prion entry and propagation.
PMCID: PMC3564126  PMID: 23340381
prion; prion strains; transmissible spongiform encephalopathies; glycosaminoglycans; LRP1; RPSA
23.  Experimental transmission of scrapie agent to susceptible sheep by intralingual or intracerebral inoculation 
Scrapie, a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), is a naturally occurring fatal neurodegenerative disease of sheep and goats. This study documents survival periods, pathological findings, and the presence of abnormal prion protein (PrPSc) in genetically susceptible sheep inoculated with scrapie agent. Suffolk lambs (AA/RR/QQ at codons 136, 154, and 171, respectively) aged 4 mo were injected by the intralingual (IL) or intracerebral (IC) route with an inoculum prepared from a pool of scrapie-affected US sheep brains. The animals were euthanized when advanced clinical signs of scrapie were observed. Spongiform lesions in the brain and PrPSc deposits in the central nervous system (CNS) and lymphoid tissues were detected by immunohistochemical and Western blot (WB) testing in all the sheep with clinical prion disease. The mean survival period was 18.3 mo for the sheep inoculated by the IL route and 17.6 mo for those inoculated by the IC route. Since the IC method is occasionally associated with anesthesia-induced complications, intracranial hematoma, and CNS infections, and the IL method is very efficient, it may be more humane to use the latter. However, before this method can be recommended for inoculation of TSE agents, research needs to show that other TSE agents can also transmit disease via the tongue.
PMCID: PMC2117369  PMID: 18214164
24.  The molecular biology of prion propagation. 
Prion diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans and scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in animals are associated with the accumulation in affected brains of a conformational isomer (PrP(Sc)) of host-derived prion protein (PrP(C)). According to the protein-only hypothesis, PrP(Sc) is the principal or sole component of transmissible prions. The conformational change known to be central to prion propagation, from a predominantly alpha-helical fold to one predominantly comprising beta structure, can now be reproduced in vitro, and the ability of beta-PrP to form fibrillar aggregates provides a plausible molecular mechanism for prion propagation. The existence of multiple prion strains has been difficult to explain in terms of a protein-only infectious agent but recent studies of human prion diseases suggest that strain-specific phenotypes can be encoded by different PrP conformations and glycosylation patterns. The experimental confirmation that a novel form of human prion disease, variant CJD, is caused by the same prion strain as cattle BSE, has highlighted the pressing need to understand the molecular basis of prion propagation and the transmission barriers that limit their passage between mammalian species. These and other advances in the fundamental biology of prion propagation are leading to strategies for the development of rational therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC1088424  PMID: 11260799
25.  A novel form of human disease with a protease-sensitive prion protein and heterozygosity methionine/valine at codon 129: Case report 
BMC Neurology  2010;10:99.
Sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (sCJD) is a rare neurodegenerative disorder in humans included in the group of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies or prion diseases. The vast majority of sCJD cases are molecularly classified according to the abnormal prion protein (PrPSc) conformations along with polymorphism of codon 129 of the PRNP gene. Recently, a novel human disease, termed "protease-sensitive prionopathy", has been described. This disease shows a distinct clinical and neuropathological phenotype and it is associated to an abnormal prion protein more sensitive to protease digestion.
Case presentation
We report the case of a 75-year-old-man who developed a clinical course and presented pathologic lesions compatible with sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and biochemical findings reminiscent of "protease-sensitive prionopathy". Neuropathological examinations revealed spongiform change mainly affecting the cerebral cortex, putamen/globus pallidus and thalamus, accompanied by mild astrocytosis and microgliosis, with slight involvement of the cerebellum. Confluent vacuoles were absent. Diffuse synaptic PrP deposits in these regions were largely removed following proteinase treatment. PrP deposition, as revealed with 3F4 and 1E4 antibodies, was markedly sensitive to pre-treatment with proteinase K. Molecular analysis of PrPSc showed an abnormal prion protein more sensitive to proteinase K digestion, with a five-band pattern of 28, 24, 21, 19, and 16 kDa, and three aglycosylated isoforms of 19, 16 and 6 kDa. This PrPSc was estimated to be 80% susceptible to digestion while the pathogenic prion protein associated with classical forms of sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease were only 2% (type VV2) and 23% (type MM1) susceptible. No mutations in the PRNP gene were found and genotype for codon 129 was heterozygous methionine/valine.
A novel form of human disease with abnormal prion protein sensitive to protease and MV at codon 129 was described. Although clinical signs were compatible with sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the molecular subtype with the abnormal prion protein isoforms showing enhanced protease sensitivity was reminiscent of the "protease-sensitive prionopathy". It remains to be established whether the differences found between the latter and this case are due to the polymorphism at codon 129. Different degrees of proteinase K susceptibility were easily determined with the chemical polymer detection system which could help to detect proteinase-susceptible pathologic prion protein in diseases other than the classical ones.
PMCID: PMC2987858  PMID: 20973975

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