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Mamm Genome. 2003 Nov;14(11):765-77.

Prion gene sequence variation within diverse groups of U.S. sheep, beef cattle, and deer.

Author information

  • 1USDA, ARS, U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC), State Spur 18D, P.O. Box 166, Clay Center, Nebraska 68933-0166, USA. heaton@email.marc.usda.gov


Prions are proteins that play a central role in transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in a variety of mammals. Among the most notable prion disorders in ungulates are scrapie in sheep, bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle, and chronic wasting disease in deer. Single nucleotide polymorphisms in the sheep prion gene ( PRNP) have been correlated with susceptibility to natural scrapie in some populations. Similar correlations have not been reported in cattle or deer; however, characterization of PRNP nucleotide diversity in those species is incomplete. This report describes nucleotide sequence variation and frequency estimates for the PRNP locus within diverse groups of U.S. sheep, U.S. beef cattle, and free-ranging deer ( Odocoileus virginianus and O. hemionus from Wyoming). DNA segments corresponding to the complete prion coding sequence and a 596-bp portion of the PRNP promoter region were amplified and sequenced from DNA panels with 90 sheep, 96 cattle, and 94 deer. Each panel was designed to contain the most diverse germplasm available from their respective populations to facilitate polymorphism detection. Sequence comparisons identified a total of 86 polymorphisms. Previously unreported polymorphisms were identified in sheep (9), cattle (13), and deer (32). The number of individuals sampled within each population was sufficient to detect more than 95% of all alleles present at a frequency greater than 0.02. The estimation of PRNP allele and genotype frequencies within these diverse groups of sheep, cattle, and deer provides a framework for designing accurate genotype assays for use in genetic epidemiology, allele management, and disease control.

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