Divergent prion strain evolution driven by PrPC expression level in transgenic mice.
ABSTRACT: Prions induce a fatal neurodegenerative disease in infected host brain based on the refolding and aggregation of the host-encoded prion protein PrPC into PrPSc. Structurally distinct PrPSc conformers can give rise to multiple prion strains. Constrained interactions between PrPC and different PrPSc strains can in turn lead to certain PrPSc (sub)populations being selected for cross-species transmission, or even produce mutation-like events. By contrast, prion strains are generally conserved when transmitted within the same species, or to transgenic mice expressing homologous PrPC. Here, we compare the strain properties of a representative sheep scrapie isolate transmitted to a panel of transgenic mouse lines expressing varying levels of homologous PrPC. While breeding true in mice expressing PrPC at near physiological levels, scrapie prions evolve consistently towards different strain components in mice beyond a certain threshold of PrPC overexpression. Our results support the view that PrPC gene dosage can influence prion evolution on homotypic transmission.
Project description:Prion diseases are progressive and fatal, neurodegenerative disorders described in humans and animals. According to the "protein-only" hypothesis, the normal host-encoded prion protein (PrPC) is converted into a pathological and infectious form (PrPSc) in these diseases. Transgenic knockout models have shown that PrPC is a prerequisite for the development of prion disease. In Norwegian dairy goats, a mutation (Ter) in the prion protein gene (PRNP) effectively blocks PrPC synthesis. We inoculated 12 goats (4 PRNP+/+, 4 PRNP+/Ter, and 4 PRNPTer/Ter) intracerebrally with goat scrapie prions. The mean incubation time until clinical signs of prion disease was 601 days post-inoculation (dpi) in PRNP+/+ goats and 773 dpi in PRNP+/Ter goats. PrPSc and vacuolation were similarly distributed in the central nervous system (CNS) of both groups and observed in all brain regions and segments of the spinal cord. Generally, accumulation of PrPSc was limited in peripheral organs, but all PRNP+/+ goats and 1 of 4 PRNP+/Ter goats were positive in head lymph nodes. The four PRNPTer/Ter goats remained healthy, without clinical signs of prion disease, and were euthanized 1260 dpi. As expected, no accumulation of PrPSc was observed in the CNS or peripheral tissues of this group, as assessed by immunohistochemistry, enzyme immunoassay, and real-time quaking-induced conversion. Our study shows for the first time that animals devoid of PrPC due to a natural mutation do not propagate prions and are resistant to scrapie. Clinical onset of disease is delayed in heterozygous goats expressing about 50% of PrPC levels.
Project description:Prion diseases are infectious neurodegenerative disorders linked to the accumulation in the central nervous system of the abnormally folded prion protein (PrP) scrapie (PrPsc), which is thought to be the infectious agent. Once present, PrPsc catalyzes the conversion of naturally occurring cellular PrP (PrPc) to PrPsc. Prion infection is usually initiated in peripheral organs, but the mechanisms involved in infectious spread to the brain are unclear. We found that both PrPc and PrPsc were actively released into the extracellular environment by PrP-expressing cells before and after infection with sheep prions, respectively. Based on Western blot with specific markers, MS, and morphological analysis, our data revealed that PrPc and PrPsc in the medium are associated with exosomes, membranous vesicles that are secreted upon fusion of multivesicular endosomes with the plasma membrane. Furthermore, we found that exosomes bearing PrPsc are infectious. Our data suggest that exosomes may contribute to intercellular membrane exchange and the spread of prions throughout the organism.
Project description:Prions are pathogens formed from abnormal conformers (PrPSc) of the host-encoded cellular prion protein (PrPC). PrPSc conformation to disease phenotype relationships extensively vary among prion strains. In particular, prions exhibit a strain-dependent tropism for lymphoid tissues. Prions can be composed of several substrain components. There is evidence that these substrains can propagate in distinct tissues (e.g. brain and spleen) of a single individual, providing an experimental paradigm to study the cause of prion tissue selectivity. Previously, we showed that PrPC expression levels feature in prion substrain selection in the brain. Transmission of sheep scrapie isolates (termed LAN) to multiple lines of transgenic mice expressing varying levels of ovine PrPC in their brains resulted in the phenotypic expression of the dominant sheep substrain in mice expressing near physiological PrPC levels, whereas a minor substrain replicated preferentially on high expresser mice. Considering that PrPC expression levels are markedly decreased in the spleen compared to the brain, we interrogate whether spleen PrPC dosage could drive prion selectivity. The outcome of the transmission of a large cohort of LAN isolates in the spleen from high expresser mice correlated with the replication rate dependency on PrPC amount. There was a prominent spleen colonization by the substrain preferentially replicating on low expresser mice and a relative incapacity of the substrain with higher-PrPC level need to propagate in the spleen. Early colonization of the spleen after intraperitoneal inoculation allowed neuropathological expression of the lymphoid substrain. In addition, a pair of substrain variants resulting from the adaptation of human prions to ovine high expresser mice, and exhibiting differing brain versus spleen tropism, showed different tropism on transmission to low expresser mice, with the lymphoid substrain colonizing the brain. Overall, these data suggest that PrPC expression levels are instrumental in prion lymphotropism.
Project description:Prion diseases are transmissible neurodegenerative disorders of prion protein (PrP) conformation. Prion replication by conversion of benign PrPC isoforms into disease-specific PrPSc isoforms is intimately involved in prion disease pathogenesis and may be initiated in cholesterol-rich caveolae-like domains (CLD). Concentrations of the cholesterol transporter ATP-binding cassette A1 protein (ABCA1) are elevated in pre-clinical scrapie prion-infected mice and in prion-infected cells in vitro. Elevation of ABCA1 in prion-infected brain is not a direct consequence of local PrPSc accumulation, indeed levels of ABCA1 are comparable in brain regions that differ dramatically in the amount of PrPSc. Similarly, ABCA1 concentrations are identical in normal mice, transgenic mice overexpressing PrP and PrP knockout mice. In contrast, PrPC and PrPSc levels, but not Prnp mRNA, were increased by overexpression of ABCA1 in N2a neuroblastoma cells and scrapie prion-infected N2a cells (ScN2a). Conversely, RNAi-mediated knock down of Abca1 expression decreased the concentrations of PrPC in N2a cells and of PrPSc in ScN2a cells. These results suggest that ABCA1's effects on PrPC levels are post-translational and may reflect an increase in of PrPC stability, mediated either indirectly by increasing membrane cholesterol and CLD formation or by other functions of ABCA1. The increased supply of PrPC available for conversion would lead to increased PrPSc formation.
Project description:Prion diseases are associated with the conversion of the alpha-helix rich prion protein (PrPC) into a beta-structure-rich insoluble conformer (PrPSc) that is thought to be infectious. The mechanism for the PrPC-->PrPSc conversion and its relationship with the pathological effects of prion diseases are poorly understood, partly because of our limited knowledge of the structure of PrPSc. In particular, the way in which mutations in the PRNP gene yield variants that confer different susceptibilities to disease needs to be clarified. We report here the 2.5-A-resolution crystal structures of three scrapie-susceptibility ovine PrP variants complexed with an antibody that binds to PrPC and to PrPSc; they identify two important features of the PrPC-->PrPSc conversion. First, the epitope of the antibody mainly consists of the last two turns of ovine PrP second alpha-helix. We show that this is a structural invariant in the PrPC-->PrPSc conversion; taken together with biochemical data, this leads to a model of the conformational change in which the two PrPC C-terminal alpha-helices are conserved in PrPSc, whereas secondary structure changes are located in the N-terminal alpha-helix. Second, comparison of the structures of scrapie-sensitivity variants defines local changes in distant parts of the protein that account for the observed differences of PrPC stability, resistant variants being destabilized compared with sensitive ones. Additive contributions of these sensitivity-modulating mutations to resistance suggest a possible causal relationship between scrapie resistance and lowered stability of the PrP protein.
Project description:Mammalian prions propagate by template-directed misfolding and aggregation of normal cellular prion related protein PrPC as it converts into disease-associated conformers collectively referred to as PrPSc. Mammalian species may be permissive for prion disease because these hosts have co-evolved specific co-factors that assist PrPC conformational change and prion propagation. We have tested this hypothesis by examining whether faithful prion propagation occurs in the normally PrPC-null invertebrate host Drosophila melanogaster. Ovine PrP transgenic Drosophila exposed at the larval stage to ovine scrapie showed a progressive accumulation of transmissible prions in adult flies. Strikingly, the biological properties of distinct ovine prion strains were maintained during their propagation in Drosophila. Our observations show that the co-factors necessary for strain-specific prion propagation are not unique to mammalian species. Our studies establish Drosophila as a novel host for the study of transmissible mammalian prions.
Project description:Biological effect of poly-L-arginine (PLR), the linear homopolymer comprised of L-arginine, was investigated to determine the activity of suppressing prions. PLR decreased the level of scrapie prion protein (PrPSc) in cultured cells permanently infected with prions in a concentration-dependent manner. The PrPSc inhibition efficacy of PLR was greater than that of another prion-suppressant poly-L-lysine (PLK) in a molecular mass-dependent fashion. The effective concentration of PLR to inhibit prions was achieved safely below the cytotoxic concentrations, and overall cytotoxicity of PLR was similar to that of PLK. PLR did not alter the cellular prion protein (PrPC) level and was unable to change the states of preformed recombinant PrP aggregates and PrPSc from prion-infected cells. These data eliminate the possibility that the action mechanism of PLR is through removal of PrPC and pre-existing PrPSc. However, PLR formed complexes with plasminogen that stimulates prion propagation via conversion of PrPC to the misfolded isoform, PrPSc. The plasminogen-PLR complex demonstrated the greater positive surface charge values than the similar complex with PLK, raising the possibility that PLR interferes with the role of cofactor for PrPSc generation better than PLK.
Project description:Bank vole is a rodent species that shows differential susceptibility to the experimental transmission of different prion strains. In this work, the transmission features of a panel of diverse prions with distinct origins were assayed both in bank vole expressing methionine at codon 109 (Bv109M) and in transgenic mice expressing physiological levels of bank vole PrPC (the BvPrP-Tg407 mouse line). This work is the first systematic comparison of the transmission features of a collection of prion isolates, representing a panel of diverse prion strains, in a transgenic-mouse model and in its natural counterpart. The results showed very similar transmission properties in both the natural species and the transgenic-mouse model, demonstrating the key role of the PrP amino acid sequence in prion transmission susceptibility. However, differences in the PrPSc types propagated by Bv109M and BvPrP-Tg407 suggest that host factors other than PrPC modulate prion strain features.The differential susceptibility of bank voles to prion strains can be modeled in transgenic mice, suggesting that this selective susceptibility is controlled by the vole PrP sequence alone rather than by other species-specific factors. Differences in the phenotypes observed after prion transmissions in bank voles and in the transgenic mice suggest that host factors other than the PrPC sequence may affect the selection of the substrain replicating in the animal model.
Project description:Prion diseases are neurodegenerative disorders associated in most cases with the accumulation in the central nervous system of PrPSc (conformationally altered isoform of cellular prion protein (PrPC); Sc for scrapie), a partially protease-resistant isoform of the PrPC. PrPSc is thought to be the causative agent of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. The mechanisms involved in the intercellular transfer of PrPSc are still enigmatic. Recently, small cellular vesicles of endosomal origin called exosomes have been proposed to contribute to the spread of prions in cell culture models. Retroviruses such as murine leukemia virus (MuLV) or human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) have been shown to assemble and bud into detergent-resistant microdomains and into intracellular compartments such as late endosomes/multivesicular bodies. Here we report that moloney murine leukemia virus (MoMuLV) infection strongly enhances the release of scrapie infectivity in the supernatant of coinfected cells. Under these conditions, we found that PrPC, PrPSc and scrapie infectivity are recruited by both MuLV virions and exosomes. We propose that retroviruses can be important cofactors involved in the spread of the pathological prion agent.
Project description:Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are a group of neurodegenerative diseases affecting a wide range of mammalian species. They are caused by prions, a proteinaceous pathogen essentially composed of PrPSc, an abnormal isoform of the host encoded cellular prion protein PrPC. Constrained steric interactions between PrPSc and PrPC are thought to provide prions with species specificity, and to control cross-species transmission into other host populations, including humans. Transgenetic expression of foreign PrP genes has been successfully and widely used to overcome the recognized resistance of mouse to foreign TSE sources. Rabbit is one of the species that exhibit a pronounced resistance to TSEs. Most attempts to infect experimentally rabbit have failed, except after inoculation with cell-free generated rabbit prions. To gain insights on the molecular determinants of the relative resistance of rabbits to prions, we generated transgenic rabbits expressing the susceptible V136R154Q171 allele of the ovine PRNP gene on a rabbit wild type PRNP New Zealand background and assessed their experimental susceptibility to scrapie prions. All transgenic animals developed a typical TSE 6-8 months after intracerebral inoculation, whereas wild type rabbits remained healthy more than 700 days after inoculation. Despite the endogenous presence of rabbit PrPC, only ovine PrPSc was detectable in the brains of diseased animals. Collectively these data indicate that the low susceptibility of rabbits to prion infection is not enciphered within their non-PrP genetic background.