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J Virol. 2005 May;79(9):5259-71.

Transmission barriers for bovine, ovine, and human prions in transgenic mice.

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  • 1Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, University of California, San Francisco, 94143-0518, USA.

Abstract

Transgenic (Tg) mice expressing full-length bovine prion protein (BoPrP) serially propagate bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) prions without posing a transmission barrier. These mice also posed no transmission barrier for Suffolk sheep scrapie prions, suggesting that cattle may be highly susceptible to some sheep scrapie strains. Tg(BoPrP) mice were also found to be susceptible to prions from humans with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD); on second passage in Tg(BoPrP) mice, the incubation times shortened by 30 to 40 days. In contrast, Tg(BoPrP) mice were not susceptible to sporadic, familial, or iatrogenic CJD prions. While the conformational stabilities of bovine-derived and Tg(BoPrP)-passaged BSE prions were similar, the stability of sheep scrapie prions was higher than that found for the BSE prions but lower if the scrapie prions were passaged in Tg(BoPrP) mice. Our findings suggest that BSE prions did not arise from a sheep scrapie strain like the one described here; rather, BSE prions may have arisen spontaneously in a cow or by passage of a scrapie strain that maintains its stability upon passage in cattle. It may be possible to distinguish BSE prions from scrapie strains in sheep by combining conformational stability studies with studies using novel Tg mice expressing a chimeric mouse-BoPrP gene. Single-amino-acid substitutions in chimeric PrP transgenes produced profound changes in incubation times that allowed us to distinguish prions causing BSE from those causing scrapie.

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