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Microbes Infect. 1999 Oct;1(12):969-76.

Prion protein and neuronal differentiation: quantitative analysis of prnp gene expression in a murine inducible neuroectodermal progenitor.

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  • 1DiffĂ©renciation cellulaire, CNRS URA 1960, Institut Pasteur, 25, rue du Dr Roux, 75724 Paris cedex 15, France.


The biological function of the cellular prion protein, PrP(c), is currently unknown. The presence of PrP(c) transcripts in the developing neural tube from embryonic day 13.5 and the predominant expression of PrP(c) in the adult brain is suggestive of a role in the onset and/or modulation of neuronal functions. We took advantage of the bipotential neuroectodermal 1C11 cell line to monitor PrP(c) expression during its bioaminergic differentiations. The F9-derived 1C11 precursor cell line displays a stable and immature phenotype in the absence of extracellular signal and, upon induction, has the capacity to acquire a complete serotonergic or noradrenergic phenotype, the two pathways being mutually exclusive. A real-time quantitative PCR assay was developed to assess PrP(c) gene expression at definite times of the two programs that correspond to sequential acquisition of neurotransmitter-specific functions. 1C11 cells and their differentiated progenies express significant amounts of PrP transcripts and of the corresponding protein. A unique decrease in prnp gene expression is observed upon entry into the serotonergic pathway, correlating with a downregulation at the protein level. Moreover, nerve growth factor (NGF) is shown to induce a decrease in the level of prnp gene expression along the serotonergic - but not the noradrenergic - pathway. Our study accurately establishes that prnp gene expression (i) is strongly upregulated concomitantly with cell fate restriction of multipotential cells towards the neural lineage; (ii) is differentially regulated along the serotonergic versus noradrenergic differentiation program of a unique neuroectodermal progenitor. The 1C11 cell line may provide a new tool for studying prion infectivity in a well-defined neuronal context.

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