During the last decade, active surveillance for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in small ruminants has been intensive in Europe. In many countries this has led to the detection of cases of atypical scrapie which, unlike classical scrapie, might not be contagious. EU legislation requires, that following detection of a scrapie case, control measures including further testing take place in affected flocks, including the culling of genotype susceptible to classical scrapie. This might result in the detection of additional cases. The aim of this study was to investigate the occurrence of additional cases in flocks affected by atypical scrapie using surveillance data collected in Europe in order to ascertain whether atypical scrapie, is contagious.
Questionnaires were used to collect, at national level, the results of active surveillance and testing associated with flock outbreaks in 12 European countries. The mean prevalence of atypical scrapie was 5.5 (5.0-6.0) cases per ten thousand in abattoir surveillance and 8.1 (7.3-9.0) cases per ten thousand in fallen stock. By using meta-analysis, on 11 out of the 12 countries, we found that the probability of detecting additional cases of atypical scrapie in positive flocks was similar to the probability observed in animals slaughtered for human consumption (odds ratio, OR = 1.07, CI95%: 0.70-1.63) or among fallen stock (OR = 0.78, CI95%: 0.51-1.2). In contrast, when comparing the two scrapie types, the probability of detecting additional cases in classical scrapie positive flocks was significantly higher than the probability of detecting additional cases in atypical scrapie positive flocks (OR = 32.4, CI95%: 20.7-50.7).
These results suggest that atypical scrapie is not contagious or has a very low transmissibility under natural conditions compared with classical scrapie. Furthermore this study stressed the importance of standardised data collection to make good use of the analyses undertaken by European countries in their efforts to control atypical and classical scrapie.
Following the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis, the European Union has introduced policies for eradicating transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), including scrapie, from large ruminants. However, recent European Union surveillance has identified a novel prion disease, ‘atypical’ scrapie, substantially different from classical scrapie. It is unknown whether atypical scrapie is naturally transmissible or zoonotic, like BSE. Furthermore, cases have occurred in scrapie-resistant genotypes that are targets for selection in legislated selective breeding programmes. Here, the first epidemiological study of British cases of atypical scrapie is described, focusing on the demographics and trading patterns of farms and using databases of recorded livestock movements. Triplet comparisons found that farms with atypical scrapie stock more sheep than those of the general, non-affected population. They also move larger numbers of animals than control farms, but similar numbers to farms reporting classical scrapie. Whilst there is weak evidence of association through sheep trading of farms reporting classical scrapie, atypical scrapie shows no such evidence, being well-distributed across regions of Great Britain and through the sheep-trading network. Thus, although cases are few in number so far, our study suggests that, should natural transmission of atypical scrapie be occurring at all, it is doing so slowly.
Active surveillance for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in small ruminants has been an EU regulatory requirement since 2002. A number of European countries have subsequently reported cases of atypical scrapie, similar to previously published cases from Norway, which have pathological and molecular features distinct from classical scrapie. Most cases have occurred singly in flocks, associated with genotypes considered to be more resistant to classical disease. Experimental transmissibility of such isolates has been reported in certain ovinised transgenic mice, but has not previously been reported in the natural host. Information on the transmissibility of this agent is vital to ensuring that disease control measures are effective and proportionate.
This report presents the successful experimental transmission, in 378 days, of atypical scrapie to a recipient sheep of homologous genotype with preservation of the pathological and molecular characteristics of the donor. This isolate also transmitted to ovinised transgenic mice (Tg338) with a murine phenotype indistinguishable from that of Nor 98.
This result strengthens the opinion that these cases result from a distinct strain of scrapie agent, which is potentially transmissible in the natural host under field conditions.
Since 2002, an active surveillance program for transmissible spongiform encephalopathy in small ruminants in European Union countries allowed identification of a considerable number of atypical cases with similarities to the previously identified atypical scrapie cases termed Nor98.
Here we report molecular and neuropathological features of eight atypical/Nor98 scrapie cases detected between 2002 and 2009. Significant features of the affected sheep included: their relatively high ages (mean age 7.9 years, range between 4.3 and 12.8), their breed (all Latxa) and their PRNP genotypes (AFRQ/ALRQ, ALRR/ALRQ, AFRQ/AFRQ, AFRQ/AHQ, ALRQ/ALRH, ALRQ/ALRQ). All the sheep were confirmed as atypical scrapie by immunohistochemistry and immunoblotting. Two cases presented more PrP immunolabelling in cerebral cortex than in cerebellum.
This work indicates that atypical scrapie constitutes the most common small ruminant transmissible spongiform encephalopathy form in Latxa sheep in the Spanish Basque Country. Moreover, a new genotype (ALRQ/ALRH) was found associated to atypical scrapie.
Public and animal health controls to limit human exposure to animal prions are focused on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), but other prion strains in ruminants may also have zoonotic potential. One example is atypical/Nor98 scrapie, which evaded statutory diagnostic methods worldwide until the early 2000s. To investigate whether sheep infected with scrapie prions could be another source of infection, we inoculated transgenic mice that overexpressed human prion protein with brain tissue from sheep with natural field cases of classical and atypical scrapie, sheep with experimental BSE, and cattle with BSE. We found that these mice were susceptible to BSE prions, but disease did not develop after prolonged postinoculation periods when mice were inoculated with classical or atypical scrapie prions. These data are consistent with the conclusion that prion disease is less likely to develop in humans after exposure to naturally occurring prions of sheep than after exposure to epizootic BSE prions of ruminants.
Atypical scrapie; bovine spongiform encephalopathy; BSE; Nor98 scrapie; prions; prion disease; prion protein; scrapie; sheep BSE; transgenic mice; transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE); variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; vCJD
Classical scrapie is a neurological disorder of the central nervous system (CNS) characterized by the accumulation of an abnormal, partially protease resistant prion protein (PrPsc) in the CNS and in some peripheral tissues in domestic small ruminants. Whereas the pathological changes and genetic susceptibility of ovine scrapie are well known, caprine scrapie has been less well studied. We report here a pathological study of 13 scrapie-affected goats diagnosed in Spain during the last 9 years. We used immunohistochemical and biochemical techniques to discriminate between classical and atypical scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). All the animals displayed PrPsc distribution patterns and western blot characteristics compatible with classical scrapie. In addition, we determined the complete open reading frame sequence of the PRNP in these scrapie-affected animals. The polymorphisms observed were compared with those of the herd mates (n = 665) and with the frequencies of healthy herds (n = 581) of native Spanish goats (Retinta, Pirenaica and Moncaina) and other worldwide breeds reared in Spain (Saanen, Alpine and crossbreed). In total, sixteen polymorphic sites were identified, including the known amino acid substitutions at codons G37V, G127S, M137I, I142M, H143R, R151H, R154H, R211Q, Q222K, G232W, and P240S, and new polymorphisms at codons G74D, M112T, R139S, L141F and Q215R. In addition, the known 42, 138 and 179 silent mutations were detected, and one new one is reported at codon 122. The genetic differences observed in the population studied have been attributed to breed and most of the novel polymorphic codons show frequencies lower than 5%. This work provides the first basis of polymorphic distribution of PRNP in native and worldwide goat breeds reared in Spain.
Scrapie is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) in sheep and goats. In recent years, atypical scrapie cases were identified that differed from classical scrapie in the molecular characteristics of the disease-associated pathological prion protein (PrPsc). In this study, we analyze the molecular and neuropathological phenotype of nine Swiss TSE cases in sheep and goats. One sheep was identified as classical scrapie, whereas six sheep, as well as two goats, were classified as atypical scrapie. The latter revealed a uniform electrophoretic mobility pattern of the proteinase K–resistant core fragment of PrPsc distinct from classical scrapie regardless of the genotype, the species, and the neuroanatomical structure. Remarkably different types of neuroanatomical PrPsc distribution were observed in atypical scrapie cases by both western immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry. Our findings indicate that the biodiversity in atypical scrapie is larger than expected and thus impacts on current sampling and testing strategies in small ruminant TSE surveillance.
In the view of concerns that bovine spongiform encephalopathy has entered the small ruminant population, comprehensive active surveillance programs for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in sheep and goats were implemented worldwide. In these, previously unrecognized atypical scrapie cases were identified that to date represent the majority of detected small ruminant TSE cases in some countries. The pathogenesis and epidemiology of atypical scrapie, as well as its relevance to both animal health and food safety, is still poorly understood. In the present study, we performed a systematic neuropathological analysis of recently diagnosed atypical scrapie cases in Switzerland. Our results show that the neuropathological presentation in atypical scrapie–affected small ruminants varies remarkably, and the results indicate a biodiversity of TSEs in sheep and goats larger than expected, with some similarities to known human TSEs. These findings will form the basis for future research on TSE phenotypes and help to design experimental studies necessary to generate data for risk assessments and the implementation of appropriate disease-control strategies.
A strain-typing ELISA distinguishes bovine spongiform encephalopathy from other scrapie strains in small ruminants.
The bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) agent has been transmitted to humans, leading to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Sheep and goats can be experimentally infected by BSE and have been potentially exposed to natural BSE; however, whether BSE can be transmitted to small ruminants is not known. Based on the particular biochemical properties of the abnormal prion protein (PrPsc) associated with BSE, and particularly the increased degradation induced by proteinase K in the N terminal part of PrPsc, we have developed a rapid ELISA designed to distinguish BSE from other scrapie strains. This assay clearly discriminates experimental ovine BSE from other scrapie strains and was used to screen 260 transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE)–infected small ruminant samples identified by the French active surveillance network (2002/2003). In this context, this test has helped to identify the first case of natural BSE in a goat and can be used to classify TSE isolates based on the proteinase K sensitivity of PrPsc.
PrP; BSE; scrapie; ELISA; strain typing; research
BSE can infect small ruminants and could be misdiagnosed as scrapie.
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies are fatal neurodegenerative diseases that include variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, scrapie in small ruminants, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle. Scrapie is not considered a public health risk, but BSE has been linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Small ruminants are susceptible to BSE, and in 2005 BSE was identified in a farmed goat in France. We confirm another BSE case in a goat in which scrapie was originally diagnosed and retrospectively identified as suspected BSE. The prion strain in this case was further characterized by mouse bioassay after extraction from formaldehyde-fixed brain tissue embedded in paraffin blocks. Our data show that BSE can infect small ruminants under natural conditions and could be misdiagnosed as scrapie. Surveillance should continue so that another outbreak of this zoonotic transmissible spongiform encephalopathy can be prevented and public health safeguarded.
zoonoses; bovine spongiform encephalopathy; scrapie; transmissible spongiform encephalopathy; small ruminant; goats; mouse bioassay; prions and related diseases; podcast
Considerable efforts have been directed toward the identification of small-ruminant prion diseases, i.e., classical and atypical scrapie as well as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Here we report the in-depth molecular analysis of the proteinase K-resistant prion protein core fragment (PrPres) in a highly scrapie-affected goat flock in Greece. The PrPres profile by Western immunoblotting in most animals was that of classical scrapie in sheep. However, in a series of clinically healthy goats we identified a unique C- and N-terminally truncated PrPres fragment, which is akin but not identical to that observed for atypical scrapie. These findings reveal novel aspects of the nature and diversity of the molecular PrPres phenotypes in goats and suggest that these animals display a previously unrecognized prion protein disorder.
Scrapie is a fatal, neurodegenerative disease of sheep and goats. It is also the earliest known member in the family of diseases classified as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) or prion diseases, which includes Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), and chronic wasting disease in cervids. The recent revelation of naturally occurring BSE in a goat has brought the issue of TSE in goats to the attention of the public. In contrast to scrapie, BSE presents a proven risk to humans. The risk of goat BSE, however, is difficult to evaluate, as our knowledge of TSE in goats is limited. Natural caprine scrapie has been discovered throughout Europe, with reported cases generally being greatest in countries with the highest goat populations. As with sheep scrapie, susceptibility and incubation period duration of goat scrapie are most likely controlled by the prion protein (PrP) gene (PRNP). Like the PRNP of sheep, the caprine PRNP shows significantly greater variability than that of cattle and humans. Although PRNP variability in goats differs from that observed in sheep, the two species share several identical alleles. Moreover, while the ARR allele associated with enhancing resistance in sheep is not present in the goat PRNP, there is evidence for the existence of other PrP variants related to resistance. This review presents the current knowledge of the epidemiology of caprine scrapie within the major European goat populations, and compiles the current data on genetic variability of PRNP.
transmissible spongiform encephalopathy; prion protein; genetics; goat; scrapie
Atypical/Nor98 scrapie was first identified in 1998 in Norway. It is now considered as a worldwide disease of small ruminants and currently represents a significant part of the detected transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) cases in Europe. Atypical/Nor98 scrapie cases were reported in ARR/ARR sheep, which are highly resistant to BSE and other small ruminants TSE agents. The biology and pathogenesis of the Atypical/Nor98 scrapie agent in its natural host is still poorly understood. However, based on the absence of detectable abnormal PrP in peripheral tissues of affected individuals, human and animal exposure risk to this specific TSE agent has been considered low. In this study we demonstrate that infectivity can accumulate, even if no abnormal PrP is detectable, in lymphoid tissues, nerves, and muscles from natural and/or experimental Atypical/Nor98 scrapie cases. Evidence is provided that, in comparison to other TSE agents, samples containing Atypical/Nor98 scrapie infectivity could remain PrPSc negative. This feature will impact detection of Atypical/Nor98 scrapie cases in the field, and highlights the need to review current evaluations of the disease prevalence and potential transmissibility. Finally, an estimate is made of the infectivity loads accumulating in peripheral tissues in both Atypical/Nor98 and classical scrapie cases that currently enter the food chain. The results obtained indicate that dietary exposure risk to small ruminants TSE agents may be higher than commonly believed.
Following the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis and the identification of its zoonotic properties, a sanitary policy has been implemented based on both eradication of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) in food-producing animals and exclusion of known infectious materials from the food chain. Atypical/Nor98 scrapie is a prion disease of small ruminants identified worldwide. Currently it represents a significant part of the TSE cases detected in Europe. The restricted tissue distribution of Atypical/Nor98 scrapie agent in its natural host and the low detected prevalence of secondary cases in affected flocks meant that it is believed to be a poorly transmissible disease. This has led to the view that Atypical/Nor98 scrapie is a spontaneous disorder for which human and animal exposure risk remains low. In this study we demonstrate that in affected individuals, Atypical/Nor98 scrapie agent can disseminate in lymphoid tissues, nerves, and muscles, challenging the idea that it is a brain-restricted infectious agent. Evidence for the deficiencies in the current methods applied for monitoring Atypical/Nor98 scrapie is provided that would indicate an underestimation in the prevalence in the general population and in the affected flocks. These elements challenge the hypothesis on the biology of this recently identified TSE agent.
We report 2 natural scrapie cases in sheep carrying the ARR/ARR prion genotype, which is believed to confer resistance against classic scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
In the past, natural scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) infections have essentially not been diagnosed in sheep homozygous for the A136R154R171 haplotype of the prion protein. This genotype was therefore assumed to confer resistance to BSE and classic scrapie under natural exposure conditions. Hence, to exclude prions from the human food chain, massive breeding efforts have been undertaken in the European Union to amplify this gene. We report the identification of 2 natural scrapie cases in ARR/ARR sheep that have biochemical and transmission characteristics similar to cases of classic scrapie, although the abnormally folded prion protein (PrPSc) was associated with a lower proteinase-K resistance. PrPSc was clearly distinct from BSE prions passaged in sheep and from atypical scrapie prions. These findings strongly support the idea that scrapie prions are a mosaic of agents, which harbor different biologic properties, rather than a unique entity.
Prion; scrapie; bovine spongiform encephalopathy; research
Ovine scrapie is a member of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), a heterogeneous family of fatal neurologic disorders characterized by deposition of an abnormal isoform (prion protein [PrP] PrP-Sc) of a cellular sialoglycoprotein in neural tissue. PrP-Sc is detectable in some lymphoid tissues of infected sheep months or years before development of clinical disease. Detection of PrP-Sc in these tissues is the basis for live-animal testing. In this study, we characterize the performance of a preclinical diagnostic test for ovine scrapie based on a monoclonal antibody (MAb)-based immunohistochemistry assay of nictitating membrane (“third eyelid”)-associated lymphoid tissue. The results of third eyelid immunohistochemistry assay agreed with the scrapie status of the sheep for 41 of 42 clinical suspects with confirmed scrapie and 174 of 175 sheep without scrapie. Third eyelid sampling agreed with the scrapie status for 36 of 41 clinically normal sheep positive for PrP-Sc immunostaining of brain tissue, including 27 sheep with positive biopsy specimens that progressed to clinical disease with confirmed scrapie 3 to 20 months after biopsy. The assay used MAb F89/160.1.5, which binds to residues 142 to 145 of ovine PrP. This antibody can be used in combination with MAb F99/97.6.1, which binds to residues 220 to 225. One or both MAbs in this cocktail recognize PrP sequences conserved in most mammalian species in which natural TSEs have been reported. Immunohistochemistry assay of routinely formalin-fixed lymphoid tissues with a cocktail of pan-specific MAbs is a practical, readily standardized live-animal and preclinical test for ovine scrapie.
In the wake of the epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy the British government established a flock of sheep from which scrapie-free animals are supplied to laboratories for research. Three breeds of sheep carrying a variety of different genotypes associated with scrapie susceptibility/resistance were imported in 1998 and 2001 from New Zealand, a country regarded as free from scrapie. They are kept in a purpose-built Sheep Unit under strict disease security and are monitored clinically and post mortem for evidence of scrapie. It is emphasised that atypical scrapie, as distinct from classical scrapie, has been recognised only relatively recently and differs from classical scrapie in its clinical, neuropathological and biochemical features. Most cases are detected in apparently healthy sheep by post mortem examination.
The occurrence of atypical scrapie in three sheep in (or derived from) the Sheep Unit is reported. Significant features of the affected sheep included their relatively high ages (6 y 1 mo, 7 y 9 mo, 9 y 7 mo respectively), their breed (all Cheviots) and their similar PRNP genotypes (AFRQ/AFRQ, AFRQ/ALRQ, and AFRQ/AFRQ, respectively). Two of the three sheep showed no clinical signs prior to death but all were confirmed as having atypical scrapie by immunohistochemistry and Western immunoblotting. Results of epidemiological investigations are presented and possible aetiologies of the cases are discussed.
By process of exclusion, a likely explanation for the three cases of atypical scrapie is that they arose spontaneously and were not infected from an exterior source. If correct, this raises challenging issues for countries which are currently regarded as free from scrapie. It would mean that atypical scrapie is liable to occur in flocks worldwide, especially in older sheep of susceptible genotypes. To state confidently that both the classical and atypical forms of scrapie are absent from a population it is necessary for active surveillance to have taken place.
The agent that causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) may be infecting small ruminants, which could have serious implications for human health. To distinguish BSE from scrapie and to examine the molecular characteristics of the protease-resistant prion protein (PrPres), we used a specifically designed Western blot method to test isolates from 648 sheep and 53 goats. During 2002–2009, classical non-Nor98 transmissible spongiform encephalopathy had been confirmed among ≈1.7 million small ruminants in France. Five sheep and 2 goats that showed a PrPres pattern consistent with BSE, or with the CH1641 experimental scrapie source, were identified. Later, bioassays confirmed infection by the BSE agent in 1 of the 2 goats. Western blot testing of the 6 other isolates showed an additional C-terminally cleaved PrPres product, with an unglycosylated band at ≈14 kDa, similar to that found in the CH1641 experimental scrapie isolate and different from the BSE isolate.
Prion; BSE; TSE; CH1641; scrapie; sheep; goat; molecular typing; France; research
Domestic goats (Capra hircus) are a natural and experimental host of scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) of sheep and cattle. Goats are also susceptible to experimental infection with the agents of TSEs of deer and elk (chronic wasting disease) and humans (Creutzfeldt Jakob disease). Distribution of PrPSc, the abnormal prion protein, is similar in the tissues of scrapie-infected sheep and goats but no data are available on the potential shedding of the agent through the placenta, the presumed route of transmission of ovine scrapie. We describe the sparse accumulation of PrPSc in the placentas of goats with naturally acquired classical scrapie in comparison to field cases of classical ovine scrapie.
PrPSc was detected in the shed placentas from a sample of U.S. goats with naturally occurring scrapie, diagnosed by antemortem lymphoid tissue biopsy or identified as high risk progeny of infected dams. PrPSc accumulation patterns in the intact placentome and western blot banding was similar in the caprine and ovine samples. However, levels of PrPSc estimated from ELISA and immunohistochemistry assays were generally lower in goats than in sheep, although wide variation was noted in both species.
PrPSc accumulates in the shed placentas of goats with naturally acquired scrapie. Although these levels were low in most caprine samples, the caprine placenta may contribute to prion contamination of kidding facilities and transmission to co-housed sheep or goats.
The possibility of the agent causing bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) infecting small ruminants is of serious concern for human health. Among scrapie cases, the CH1641 source in particular appears to have certain biochemical properties similar to the BSE strain. In France, several natural scrapie cases were identified as “CH1641-like” natural scrapie isolates in sheep and goats. The Tg(OvPrP4) mouse line expressing the ovine prion protein is a sensitive model for studying and identifying strains of agents responsible for scrapie and BSE. This model is also very useful when studying specific scrapie source CH1641, known to be not transmissible to wild-type mice despite the similarity of some of its biochemical properties to those of the BSE strain. As it is important to be able to fully distinguish CH1641 from BSE, we herein report the histopathological data from CH1641 scrapie transmission experiments compared to specific cases of “CH1641-like” natural scrapie isolates in sheep, murine scrapie strains and BSE. In addition to the conventional vacuolar lesion profile approach and PrPd brain mappings, an innovative differential PET-blot analysis was introduced to classify the different strains of agent and revealed the first direct concordance between ways of grouping strains on the basis of PrPd biochemical characteristics.
Scrapie in sheep and goats has been known for more than 250 years and belongs nowadays to the so-called prion diseases that also include e.g. bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle (BSE) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. According to the prion hypothesis, the pathological isoform (PrPSc) of the cellular prion protein (PrPc) comprises the essential, if not exclusive, component of the transmissible agent. Currently, two types of scrapie disease are known - classical and atypical/Nor98 scrapie. In the present study we examine 24 cases of classical and 25 cases of atypical/Nor98 scrapie with the sensitive PET blot method and validate the results with conventional immunohistochemistry. The sequential detection of PrPSc aggregates in the CNS of classical scrapie sheep implies that after neuroinvasion a spread from spinal cord and obex to the cerebellum, diencephalon and frontal cortex via the rostral brainstem takes place. We categorize the spread of PrPSc into four stages: the CNS entry stage, the brainstem stage, the cruciate sulcus stage and finally the basal ganglia stage. Such a sequential development of PrPSc was not detectable upon analysis of the present atypical/Nor98 scrapie cases. PrPSc distribution in one case of atypical/Nor98 scrapie in a presumably early disease phase suggests that the spread of PrPSc aggregates starts in the di- or telencephalon. In addition to the spontaneous generation of PrPSc, an uptake of the infectious agent into the brain, that bypasses the brainstem and starts its accumulation in the thalamus, needs to be taken into consideration for atypical/Nor98 scrapie.
Atypical scrapie was first identified in Norwegian sheep in 1998 and has subsequently been identified in many countries. Retrospective studies have identified cases predating the initial identification of this form of scrapie, and epidemiological studies have indicated that it does not conform to the behaviour of an infectious disease, giving rise to the hypothesis that it represents spontaneous disease.
However, atypical scrapie isolates have been shown to be infectious experimentally, through intracerebral inoculation in transgenic mice and sheep. The first successful challenge of a sheep with 'field' atypical scrapie from an homologous donor sheep was reported in 2007.
This study demonstrates that atypical scrapie has distinct clinical, pathological and biochemical characteristics which are maintained on transmission and sub-passage, and which are distinct from other strains of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in the same host genotype.
Atypical scrapie is consistently transmissible within AHQ homozygous sheep, and the disease phenotype is preserved on sub-passage.
The protease-resistant prion protein (PrPres) of a few natural scrapie isolates identified in sheep, reminiscent of the experimental isolate CH1641 derived from a British natural scrapie case, showed partial molecular similarities to ovine bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Recent discovery of an atypical form of BSE in cattle, L-type BSE or BASE, suggests that also this form of BSE might have been transmitted to sheep. We studied by Western blot the molecular features of PrPres in four “CH1641-like” natural scrapie isolates after transmission in an ovine transgenic model (TgOvPrP4), to see if “CH1641-like” isolates might be linked to L-type BSE. We found less diglycosylated PrPres than in classical BSE, but similar glycoform proportions and apparent molecular masses of the usual PrPres form (PrPres #1) to L-type BSE. However, the “CH1641-like” isolates differed from both L-type and classical BSE by an abundant, C-terminally cleaved PrPres product (PrPres #2) specifically recognised by a C-terminal antibody (SAF84). Differential immunoprecipitation of PrPres #1 and PrPres #2 resulted in enrichment in PrPres #2, and demonstrated the presence of mono- and diglycosylated PrPres products. PrPres #2 could not be obtained from several experimental scrapie sources (SSBP1, 79A, Chandler, C506M3) in TgOvPrP4 mice, but was identified in the 87V scrapie strain and, in lower and variable proportions, in 5 of 5 natural scrapie isolates with different molecular features to CH1641. PrPres #2 identification provides an additional method for the molecular discrimination of prion strains, and demonstrates differences between “CH1641-like” ovine scrapie and bovine L-type BSE transmitted in an ovine transgenic mouse model.
The origin of the transmissible agent involved in the food-borne epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) remains a mystery. It has recently been proposed that this could have been the result of the recycling of an atypical, more probably sporadic, form of BSE (called bovine amyloidotic spongiform encephalopathy, or L-type BSE) in an intermediate host, such as sheep. In this study we analyzed the molecular features of the disease-associated protease-resistant prion protein (PrPres) found in the brain of transgenic mice overexpressing the ovine prion protein after experimental infection with prions from bovine classical and L-type BSEs or from ovine scrapie. Scrapie cases included rare “CH1641-like” isolates, which share some PrPres molecular features with classical BSE and L-type BSE. Scrapie isolates induced in transgenic mouse brains the production of a C-terminally cleaved form of PrPres, which was particularly abundant from “CH1641-like” cases. In contrast, this C-terminal prion protein product was undetectable in ovine transgenic mice infected with bovine prions from both classical and L-type BSE. These findings add a novel approach for the discrimination of prions that may help to understand their possible changes during cross-species transmissions.
Susceptibility of sheep to scrapie, a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy of small ruminants, is strongly influenced by polymorphisms of the prion protein gene (PRNP). Breeding programs have been implemented to increase scrapie resistance in sheep populations; though desirable, a similar approach has not yet been applied in goats. European studies have now suggested that several polymorphisms can modulate scrapie susceptibility in goats: in particular, PRNP variant K222 has been associated with resistance in case-control studies in Italy, France and Greece. In this study we investigated the resistance conferred by this variant using a natural Italian goat scrapie isolate to intracerebrally challenge five goats carrying genotype Q/Q 222 (wild type) and five goats carrying genotype Q/K 222. By the end of the study, all five Q/Q 222 goats had died of scrapie after a mean incubation period of 19 months; one of the five Q/K 222 goats died after 24 months, while the other four were alive and apparently healthy up to the end of the study at 4.5 years post-challenge. All five of these animals were found to be scrapie negative. Statistical analysis showed that the probability of survival of the Q/K 222 goats versus the Q/Q 222 goats was significantly higher (p = 0.002). Our study shows that PRNP gene mutation K222 is strongly associated with resistance to classical scrapie also in experimental conditions, making it a potentially positive target for selection in the frame of breeding programs for resistance to classical scrapie in goats.
Atypical scrapie is a recently recognised form of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy of sheep that differs from classical scrapie in its neuropathological and biochemical features. Most cases are detected in apparently healthy sheep and information on the clinical presentation is limited.
This report describes the clinical findings in two sheep notified as scrapie suspects and confirmed as atypical scrapie cases by immunohistochemistry and Western immunoblotting. Although both sheep displayed signs suggestive of a cerebellar dysfunction there was considerable variation in the individual clinical signs, which were similar to classical scrapie.
Any sheep presenting with neurological gait deficits should be assessed more closely for other behavioural, neurological and physical signs associated with scrapie and their presence should lead to the suspicion of scrapie.
Atypical scrapie strain phenotypes may shift when transmitted to a new host.
How susceptible pigs are to infection with sheep prions is unknown. We show, through transmission experiments in transgenic mice expressing porcine prion protein (PrP), that the susceptibility of this mouse model to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) can be enhanced after its passage in ARQ sheep, indicating that the pathogenicity of the BSE agent is modified after passage in sheep. Transgenic mice expressing porcine PrP were, nevertheless, completely resistant to infection with a broad panel of classical scrapie isolates from different sheep PrP genotypes and with different biochemical characteristics. The atypical (Nor98 like) isolate (SC-PS152) was the only scrapie isolate capable of transmission in these mice, although with a marked transmission barrier. Unexpectedly, the atypical scrapie agent appeared to undergo a strain phenotype shift upon transmission to porcine-PrP transgenic mice and acquired new strain properties, suggesting that atypical scrapie agent may exhibit different phenotypes depending on the host cellular PrP or other genetic factors.
Porcine prion; bovine spongiform encephalopathy; sheep; scrapie; transmission barrier; prions and related diseases; atypical scrapie; research
The pathobiology of atypical scrapie, a prion disease affecting sheep and goats, is still poorly understood. In a previous study, we demonstrated that atypical scrapie affecting small ruminants in Switzerland differs in the neuroanatomical distribution of the pathological prion protein (PrPd). To investigate whether these differences depend on host-related vs. pathogen-related factors, we transmitted atypical scrapie to transgenic mice over-expressing the ovine prion protein (tg338). The clinical, neuropathological, and molecular phenotype of tg338 mice is similar between mice carrying the Swiss atypical scrapie isolates and the Nor98, an atypical scrapie isolate from Norway. Together with published data, our results suggest that atypical scrapie is caused by a uniform type of prion, and that the observed phenotypic differences in small ruminants are likely host-dependant. Strikingly, by using a refined SDS-PAGE technique, we established that the prominent proteinase K-resistant prion protein fragment in atypical scrapie consists of two separate, unglycosylated peptides with molecular masses of roughly 5 and 8 kDa. These findings show similarities to those for other prion diseases in animals and humans, and lay the groundwork for future comparative research.