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PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e32382. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032382. Epub 2012 Feb 23.

Allelic origin of protease-sensitive and protease-resistant prion protein isoforms in Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker disease with the P102L mutation.

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  • 1Department of Neurological, Neuropsychological, Morphological and Motor Sciences, University of Verona, Verona, Italy. salvatore.monaco@univr.it

Abstract

Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker (GSS) disease is a dominantly inherited prion disease associated with point mutations in the Prion Protein gene. The most frequent mutation associated with GSS involves a proline-to-leucine substitution at residue 102 of the prion protein, and is characterized by marked variability at clinical, pathological and molecular levels. Previous investigations of GSS P102L have shown that disease-associated pathological prion protein, or PrP(Sc), consists of two main conformers, which under exogenous proteolysis generates a core fragment of 21 kDa and an internal fragment of 8 kDa. Both conformers are detected in subjects with spongiform degeneration, whereas only the 8 kDa fragment is recovered in cases lacking spongiosis. Several studies have reported an exclusive derivation of protease-resistant PrP(Sc) isoforms from the mutated allele; however, more recently, the propagation of protease-resistant wild-type PrP(Sc) has been described. Here we analyze the molecular and pathological phenotype of six GSS P102L cases characterized by the presence of 21 and 8 kDa PrP fragments and two subjects with only the 8 kDa PrP fragment. Using sensitive protein separation techniques and Western blots with antibodies differentially recognizing wild-type and mutant PrP we observed a range of PrP(Sc) allelic conformers, either resistant or sensitive to protease treatment in all investigated subjects. Additionally, tissue deposition of protease-sensitive wild-type PrP(Sc) molecules was seen by conventional PrP immunohistochemistry and paraffin-embedded tissue blot. Our findings enlarge the spectrum of conformational allelic PrP(Sc) quasispecies propagating in GSS P102L thus providing a molecular support to the spectrum of disease phenotypes, and, in addition, impact the diagnostic role of PrP immunohistochemistry in prion diseases.

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