Experimentally induced bovine spongiform encephalopathy did not transmit via goat embryos.
Goats are susceptible to experimental challenge with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). This study set out to investigate whether the transmission of BSE could occur in goats following the transfer of embryos from experimentally infected donor females into uninfected recipient females. The results showed no evidence of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy disease in any of the offspring which developed from embryos from infected donors, nor indeed in any of the recipient females used as surrogate dams. In addition, there was no indication of experimental BSE spreading as either a venereal infection to males used in mating or by maternal transmission to offspring born naturally to experimentally infected donors, although numbers were small. (+info
Prion protein gene polymorphisms in sheep with natural scrapie and healthy controls in Norway.
Two-hundred and forty healthy sheep and 32 cases of natural scrapie in Norway were analysed for disease-linked polymorphisms in the prion protein (PrP) gene. Scrapie was strongly associated with the presence of a valine polymorphism at codon 136 (V136), as 68.8% of the cases were homozygous (VV136) and 15.6% were valine/alanine heterozygous (VA136). All cases were homozygous arginine/arginine at codon 154 (RR154), except two which were homozygous histidine/histidine (HH154). All cases except two were homozygous glutamine/glutamine at codon 171 (QQ171), the two exceptions being heterozygous glutamine/arginine (QR171). More than 80% of all scrapie cases in Norway have occurred in a Cheviot-related crossbred type of sheep called Rygja. This type of sheep, which is largely restricted to the south-western coast, carries the V136 allele at a higher frequency than do other breeds of Norwegian sheep. Polymorphisms at codons 138 and 151 are also described. (+info
PrP-dependent association of prions with splenic but not circulating lymphocytes of scrapie-infected mice.
An intact immune system, and particularly the presence of mature B lymphocytes, is crucial for mouse scrapie pathogenesis in the brain after peripheral exposure. Prions are accumulated in the lymphoreticular system (LRS), but the identity of the cells containing infectivity and their role in neuroinvasion have not been determined. We show here that although prion infectivity in the spleen is associated with B and T lymphocytes and to a lesser degree with the stroma, no infectivity could be detected in lymphocytes from blood. In wild-type mice, which had been irradiated and reconstituted with PrP-deficient lymphohaematopoietic stem cells and inoculated with scrapie prions, infectivity in the spleen was present in the stroma but not in lymphocytes. Therefore, splenic B and T lymphocytes can either synthesize prions or acquire them from another source, but only when they express PrP. (+info
Two prion-inducing regions of Ure2p are nonoverlapping.
Ure2p of Saccharomyces cerevisiae normally functions in blocking utilization of a poor nitrogen source when a good nitrogen source is available. The non-Mendelian genetic element [URE3] is a prion (infectious protein) form of Ure2p, so that overexpression of Ure2p induces the de novo appearance of infectious [URE3]. Earlier studies defined a prion domain comprising Ure2p residues 1 to 64 and a nitrogen regulation domain included in residues 66 to 354. We find that deletion of individual runs of asparagine within the prion domain reduce prion-inducing activity. Although residues 1 to 64 are sufficient for prion induction, the fragment from residues 1 to 80 is a more efficient inducer of [URE3]. In-frame deletion of a region around residue 224 does not affect nitrogen regulation but does eliminate prion induction by the remainder of Ure2p. Larger deletions removing the region around residue 224 and more of the C-terminal part of Ure2p restore prion-inducing ability. A fragment of Ure2p lacking the original prion domain does not induce [URE3], but surprisingly, further deletion of residues 151 to 157 and 348 to 354 leaves a fragment that can do so. The region from 66 to 80 and the region around residue 224 are both necessary for this second prion-inducing activity. Thus, each of two nonoverlapping parts of Ure2p is sufficient to induce the appearance of the [URE3] prion. (+info
Motor activity changes in scrapie-affected mice.
Measurements of spontaneous motor activity using Animex equipment have been made throughout the incubation period in mice developing scrapie. A progressive fall in activity has been noted from an early stage in the disease process well before clinical signs of scrapie were evident. The initial fall was followed by an upsurge in activity at about the time when clinical signs of disease develop. (+info
Protease-resistant and detergent-insoluble prion protein is not necessarily associated with prion infectivity.
PrPSc, an abnormal isoform of PrPC, is the only known component of the prion, an agent causing fatal neurodegenerative disorders such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). It has been postulated that prion diseases propagate by the conversion of detergent-soluble and protease-sensitive PrPC molecules into protease-resistant and insoluble PrPSc molecules by a mechanism in which PrPSc serves as a template. We show here that the chemical chaperone dimethyl sulfoxide (Me2SO) can partially inhibit the aggregation of either PrPSc or that of its protease-resistant core PrP27-30. Following Me2SO removal by methanol precipitation, solubilized PrP27-30 molecules aggregated into small and amorphous structures that did not resemble the rod configuration observed when scrapie brain membranes were extracted with Sarkosyl and digested with proteinase K. Interestingly, aggregates derived from Me2SO-solubilized PrP27-30 presented less than 1% of the prion infectivity obtained when the same amount of PrP27-30 in rods was inoculated into hamsters. These results suggest that the conversion of PrPC into protease-resistant and detergent-insoluble PrP molecules is not the only crucial step in prion replication. Whether an additional requirement is the aggregation of newly formed proteinase K-resistant PrP molecules into uniquely structured aggregates remains to be established. (+info
Population dynamics of scrapie in a sheep flock.
A detailed analysis of an outbreak of natural scrapie in a flock of Cheviot sheep is described. A total of 137 cases was reported over 13 years among 1307 sheep born into the flock. The epidemiology of scrapie can only be understood with reference to sheep demography, the population genetics of susceptibility to scrapie, pathogenesis during a long incubation period, and the rate of transmission (by both vertical and horizontal routes), all of which interact in complex ways. A mathematical model incorporating these features is described, parameter values and model inputs are derived from available information from the flock and from independent sources, and model outputs are compared with the field data. The model is able to reproduce key features of the outbreak, including its long duration and the ages of cases. The analysis supports earlier work suggesting that many infected sheep do not survive to show clinical signs, that most cases arise through horizontal transmission, and that there is strong selection against susceptible genotypes. However, important aspects of scrapie epidemiology remain poorly understood, including the possible role of carrier genotypes and of an environmental reservoir of infectivity, and the mechanisms maintaining alleles giving susceptibility to scrapie in the sheep population. (+info
The basic reproduction number for scrapie.
The basic reproduction number R0 provides a quantitative assessment of the ability of an infectious agent to invade a susceptible host population. A mathematical expression for R0 is derived based on a recently developed model for the spread of scrapie through a flock of sheep. The model incorporates sheep demography, a long and variable incubation period, genetic variation in susceptibility to scrapie, and horizontal and vertical routes of transmission. The sensitivity of R0 to a range of epidemiologically important parameters is assessed and the effects of genetic variation in susceptibility are examined. A reduction in the frequency of the susceptibility allele reduces R0 most effectively when the allele is recessive, whereas inbreeding may increase R0 when the allele is recessive, increasing the chance of an outbreak. Using this formulation, R0 is calculated for an outbreak of scrapie in a flock of Cheviot sheep. (+info