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1.  Gene expression profiling of mesenteric lymph nodes from sheep with natural scrapie 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:59.
Prion diseases are characterized by the accumulation of the pathogenic PrPSc protein, mainly in the brain and the lymphoreticular system. Although prions multiply/accumulate in the lymph nodes without any detectable pathology, transcriptional changes in this tissue may reflect biological processes that contribute to the molecular pathogenesis of prion diseases. Little is known about the molecular processes that occur in the lymphoreticular system in early and late stages of prion disease. We performed a microarray-based study to identify genes that are differentially expressed at different disease stages in the mesenteric lymph node of sheep naturally infected with scrapie. Oligo DNA microarrays were used to identify gene-expression profiles in the early/middle (preclinical) and late (clinical) stages of the disease.
In the clinical stage of the disease, we detected 105 genes that were differentially expressed (≥2-fold change in expression). Of these, 43 were upregulated and 62 downregulated as compared with age-matched negative controls. Fewer genes (50) were differentially expressed in the preclinical stage of the disease. Gene Ontology enrichment analysis revealed that the differentially expressed genes were largely associated with the following terms: glycoprotein, extracellular region, disulfide bond, cell cycle and extracellular matrix. Moreover, some of the annotated genes could be grouped into 3 specific signaling pathways: focal adhesion, PPAR signaling and ECM-receptor interaction. We discuss the relationship between the observed gene expression profiles and PrPSc deposition and the potential involvement in the pathogenesis of scrapie of 7 specific differentially expressed genes whose expression levels were confirmed by real time-PCR.
The present findings identify new genes that may be involved in the pathogenesis of natural scrapie infection in the lymphoreticular system, and confirm previous reports describing scrapie-induced alterations in the expression of genes involved in protein misfolding, angiogenesis and the oxidative stress response. Further studies will be necessary to determine the role of these genes in prion replication, dissemination and in the response of the organism to this disease.
PMCID: PMC3906094  PMID: 24450868
Natural scrapie; Mesenteric lymph node; Microarray; Gene expression; Real time PCR; Prion
2.  Analysis of conservation priorities of Iberoamerican cattle based on autosomal microsatellite markers 
Determining the value of livestock breeds is essential to define conservation priorities, manage genetic diversity and allocate funds. Within- and between-breed genetic diversity need to be assessed to preserve the highest intra-specific variability. Information on genetic diversity and risk status is still lacking for many Creole cattle breeds from the Americas, despite their distinct evolutionary trajectories and adaptation to extreme environmental conditions.
A comprehensive genetic analysis of 67 Iberoamerican cattle breeds was carried out with 19 FAO-recommended microsatellites to assess conservation priorities. Contributions to global diversity were investigated using alternative methods, with different weights given to the within- and between-breed components of genetic diversity. Information on Iberoamerican plus 15 worldwide cattle breeds was used to investigate the contribution of geographical breed groups to global genetic diversity.
Overall, Creole cattle breeds showed a high level of genetic diversity with the highest level found in breeds admixed with zebu cattle, which were clearly differentiated from all other breeds. Within-breed kinships revealed seven highly inbred Creole breeds for which measures are needed to avoid further genetic erosion. However, if contribution to heterozygosity was the only criterion considered, some of these breeds had the lowest priority for conservation decisions. The Weitzman approach prioritized highly differentiated breeds, such as Guabalá, Romosinuano, Cr. Patagonico, Siboney and Caracú, while kinship-based methods prioritized mainly zebu-related breeds. With the combined approaches, breed ranking depended on the weights given to the within- and between-breed components of diversity. Overall, the Creole groups of breeds were generally assigned a higher priority for conservation than the European groups of breeds.
Conservation priorities differed significantly according to the weight given to within- and between-breed genetic diversity. Thus, when establishing conservation programs, it is necessary to also take into account other features. Creole cattle and local isolated breeds retain a high level of genetic diversity. The development of sustainable breeding and crossbreeding programs for Creole breeds, and the added value resulting from their products should be taken into consideration to ensure their long-term survival.
PMCID: PMC3851275  PMID: 24079454
3.  Prion Protein Gene Variability in Spanish Goats. Inference through Susceptibility to Classical Scrapie Strains and Pathogenic Distribution of Peripheral PrPsc 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61118.
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.
PMCID: PMC3620333  PMID: 23580248
4.  Genetic Footprints of Iberian Cattle in America 500 Years after the Arrival of Columbus 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49066.
American Creole cattle presumably descend from animals imported from the Iberian Peninsula during the period of colonization and settlement, through different migration routes, and may have also suffered the influence of cattle directly imported from Africa. The introduction of European cattle, which began in the 18th century, and later of Zebu from India, has threatened the survival of Creole populations, some of which have nearly disappeared or were admixed with exotic breeds. Assessment of the genetic status of Creole cattle is essential for the establishment of conservation programs of these historical resources.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We sampled 27 Creole populations, 39 Iberian, 9 European and 6 Zebu breeds. We used microsatellite markers to assess the origins of Creole cattle, and to investigate the influence of different breeds on their genetic make-up. The major ancestral contributions are from breeds of southern Spain and Portugal, in agreement with the historical ports of departure of ships sailing towards the Western Hemisphere. This Iberian contribution to Creoles may also include some African influence, given the influential role that African cattle have had in the development of Iberian breeds, but the possibility of a direct influence on Creoles of African cattle imported to America can not be discarded. In addition to the Iberian influence, the admixture with other European breeds was minor. The Creoles from tropical areas, especially those from the Caribbean, show clear signs of admixture with Zebu.
Nearly five centuries since cattle were first brought to the Americas, Creoles still show a strong and predominant signature of their Iberian ancestors. Creole breeds differ widely from each other, both in genetic structure and influences from other breeds. Efforts are needed to avoid their extinction or further genetic erosion, which would compromise centuries of selective adaptation to a wide range of environmental conditions.
PMCID: PMC3498335  PMID: 23155451
5.  Isolation and characterization of ovine mesenchymal stem cells derived from peripheral blood 
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent stem cells with capacity to differentiate into several mesenchymal lineages. This quality makes MSCs good candidates for use in cell therapy. MSCs can be isolated from a variety of tissues including bone marrow and adipose tissue, which are the most common sources of these cells. However, MSCs can also be isolated from peripheral blood. Sheep has been proposed as an ideal model for biomedical studies including those of orthopaedics and transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). The aim of this work was to advance these studies by investigating the possibility of MSC isolation from ovine peripheral blood (oPB-MSCs) and by subsequently characterizing there in vitro properties.
Plastic-adherent fibroblast-like cells were obtained from the mononuclear fraction of blood samples. These cells were analysed for their proliferative and differentiation potential into adipocytes, osteoblasts and chondrocytes, as well as for the gene expression of cell surface markers. The isolated cells expressed transcripts for markers CD29, CD73 and CD90, but failed to express the haematopoietic marker CD45 and expressed only low levels of CD105. The expression of CD34 was variable. The differentiation potential of this cell population was evaluated using specific differentiation media. Although the ability of the cultures derived from different animals to differentiate into adipocytes, osteoblasts and chondrocytes was heterogeneous, we confirmed this feature using specific staining and analysing the gene expression of differentiation markers. Finally, we tested the ability of oPB-MSCs to transdifferentiate into neuronal-like cells. Morphological changes were observed after 24-hour culture in neurogenic media, and the transcript levels of the neurogenic markers increased during the prolonged induction period. Moreover, oPB-MSCs expressed the cellular prion protein gene (PRNP), which was up-regulated during neurogenesis.
This study describes for the first time the isolation and characterization of oPB-MSCs. Albeit some variability was observed between animals, these cells retained their capacity to differentiate into mesenchymal lineages and to transdifferentiate into neuron-like cells in vitro. Therefore, oPB-MSCs could serve as a valuable tool for biomedical research in fields including orthopaedics or prion diseases.
PMCID: PMC3514285  PMID: 22999337
Sheep; Mesenchymal stem cell; Peripheral blood; Neurogenesis
6.  Effect of hypoxia on equine mesenchymal stem cells derived from bone marrow and adipose tissue 
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) derived from bone marrow (BM-MSCs) and adipose tissue (AT-MSCs) are being applied to equine cell therapy. The physiological environment in which MSCs reside is hypoxic and does not resemble the oxygen level typically used in in vitro culture (20% O2). This work compares the growth kinetics, viability, cell cycle, phenotype and expression of pluripotency markers in both equine BM-MSCs and AT-MSCs at 5% and 20% O2.
At the conclusion of culture, fewer BM-MSCs were obtained in hypoxia than in normoxia as a result of significantly reduced cell division. Hypoxic AT-MSCs proliferated less than normoxic AT-MSCs because of a significantly higher presence of non-viable cells during culture. Flow cytometry analysis revealed that the immunophenotype of both MSCs was maintained in both oxygen conditions. Gene expression analysis using RT-qPCR showed that statistically significant differences were only found for CD49d in BM-MSCs and CD44 in AT-MSCs. Similar gene expression patterns were observed at both 5% and 20% O2 for the remaining surface markers. Equine MSCs expressed the embryonic markers NANOG, OCT4 and SOX2 in both oxygen conditions. Additionally, hypoxic cells tended to display higher expression, which might indicate that hypoxia retains equine MSCs in an undifferentiated state.
Hypoxia attenuates the proliferative capacity of equine MSCs, but does not affect the phenotype and seems to keep them more undifferentiated than normoxic MSCs.
PMCID: PMC3483288  PMID: 22913590
Hypoxia; Horse; AT-MSC; BM-MSC; Characterisation
7.  Changes in HSP gene and protein expression in natural scrapie with brain damage 
Veterinary Research  2011;42(1):13.
Heat shock proteins (Hsp) perform cytoprotective functions such as apoptosis regulation and inflammatory response control. These proteins can also be secreted to the extracellular medium, acting as inflammatory mediators, and their chaperone activity permits correct folding of proteins and avoids the aggregation of anomalous isoforms. Several studies have proposed the implication of Hsp in prion diseases. We analysed the gene expression and protein distribution of different members of the Hsp27, Hsp70, and Hsp90 families in the central nervous system of sheep naturally infected with scrapie. Different expression profiles were observed in the areas analysed. Whereas changes in transcript levels were not observed in the cerebellum or medulla oblongata, a significant decrease in HSP27 and HSP90 was detected in the prefrontal cortex. In contrast, HSP73 was over-expressed in diencephalons of scrapie animals. Western blotting did not reveal significant differences in Hsp90 and Hsp70 protein expression between scrapie and control animals. Expression rates identified by real-time RT-PCR and western blotting were compared with the extent of classical scrapie lesions using stepwise regression. Changes in Hsp gene and protein expression were associated with prion protein deposition, gliosis and spongiosis rather than with apoptosis. Finally, immunohistochemistry revealed intense Hsp70 and Hsp90 immunolabelling in Purkinje cells of scrapie sheep. In contrast, controls displayed little or no staining in these cells. The observed differences in gene expression and protein distribution suggest that the heat shock proteins analysed play a role in the natural form of the disease.
PMCID: PMC3037893  PMID: 21314976
8.  Distinct spatial activation of intrinsic and extrinsic apoptosis pathways in natural scrapie: association with prion-related lesions 
Veterinary Research  2009;40(5):42.
Neurodegeneration and gliosis are the main neuropathological features of prion diseases. However, the molecular mechanisms involved in these processes remain unclear. Several studies have demonstrated changes in the expression of apoptotic factors and inflammatory cytokines in animals with experimental infection. Here we present the expression profiles of 15 genes implicated in the intrinsic and extrinsic apoptotic pathways in the central nervous systems of sheep naturally infected with scrapie. Expression changes obtained by real-time RT-PCR were also compared with the extent of classical scrapie lesions, such as prion deposition, neuronal vacuolisation, spongiosis, and astrogliosis as well as with the activation of caspase-3, using a stepwise regression. The results suggest that the factors assessed participate in apoptotic or inflammatory functions, depending on the affected area. The mitochondrial apoptosis pathway was associated with prion deposition in the prefrontal cortex (the less affected area), and with activation of caspase-3-mediated cell death via over-expression of BAK. In addition to its known association with astroglial activation, the extrinsic apoptosis pathway was also related to cell death and neuronal vacuolisation.
PMCID: PMC2701179  PMID: 19401142
apoptosis; prion; scrapie; mitochondrial pathway; extrinsic pathway
9.  Structural and functional analysis of the HSP90AA1 gene: distribution of polymorphisms among sheep with different responses to scrapie 
Cell Stress & Chaperones  2008;13(1):19-29.
Scrapie is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy in sheep and goats. Susceptibility to this neurodegenerative disease is mainly controlled by point mutations at the PRNP locus. Other genes, apart from PRNP, have been reported to modulate resistance/susceptibility to scrapie. On the basis of several studies in Alzheimer and different transmissible spongiform encephalopathy models, HSP90AA1 was chosen as a putative positional and functional candidate gene that might be involved in the polygenic variance mentioned above. In the present work, the ovine HSP90AA1 gene including the promoter and other regulatory regions has been isolated and characterized. Several sequence polymorphisms have also been identified. FISH-mapping localized the HSP90AA1 gene on ovine chromosome OAR19q24dist, which was confirmed by linkage analysis. This chromosome region has been shown to include a quantitative trait loci (QTL) for scrapie incubation period in sheep. Expression analyses were carried out in spleen and cerebellum samples. No differences in the expression of the HSP90AA1 gene were found in any of these tissues (p > 0.05) between control and infected animal samples. Nevertheless, association analyses revealed that several polymorphisms in the 5′ and 3′ regions of the HSP90AA1 gene were differentially distributed among animals with different responses to scrapie infection. Thus, results presented here support the hypothesis that HSP90AA1 could be a positional and functional candidate gene modulating the response to scrapie in sheep.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12192-007-0004-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2666211  PMID: 18347938

Results 1-9 (9)