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J Virol. 2001 Apr;75(7):3453-61.

Branched polyamines cure prion-infected neuroblastoma cells.

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


Branched polyamines, including polyamidoamine and polypropyleneimine (PPI) dendrimers, are able to purge PrP(Sc), the disease-causing isoform of the prion protein, from scrapie-infected neuroblastoma (ScN2a) cells in culture (S. Supattapone, H.-O. B. Nguyen, F. E. Cohen, S. B. Prusiner, and M. R. Scott, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 96:14529-14534, 1999). We now demonstrate that exposure of ScN2a cells to 3 microg of PPI generation 4.0/ml for 4 weeks not only reduced PrP(Sc) to a level undetectable by Western blot but also eradicated prion infectivity as determined by a bioassay in mice. Exposure of purified RML prions to branched polyamines in vitro disaggregated the prion rods, reduced the beta-sheet content of PrP 27-30, and rendered PrP 27-30 susceptible to proteolysis. The susceptibility of PrP(Sc) to proteolytic digestion induced by branched polyamines in vitro was strain dependent. Notably, PrP(Sc) from bovine spongiform encephalopathy-infected brain was susceptible to PPI-mediated denaturation in vitro, whereas PrP(Sc) from natural sheep scrapie-infected brain was resistant. Fluorescein-labeled PPI accumulated specifically in lysosomes, suggesting that branched polyamines act within this acidic compartment to mediate PrP(Sc) clearance. Branched polyamines are the first class of compounds shown to cure prion infection in living cells and may prove useful as therapeutic, disinfecting, and strain-typing reagents for prion diseases.

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