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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2007 Jun;1772(6):645-53. Epub 2007 Apr 24.

Motor behavioral and neuropathological deficits in mice deficient for normal prion protein expression.

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Sanders Brown Center on Aging, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40536, USA.


It has been difficult to reconcile the absence of pathology and apparently normal behavior of mice lacking prion protein (PrP), referred to as Prnp(0/0) mice, with a mechanism of prion pathogenesis involving progressive loss of PrP(C)-mediated neuroprotection. However, here we report that Prnp(0/0) mice exhibit significant age-related defects in motor coordination and balance compared with mice expressing wild type Prnp on a syngeneic background, and that the brains of behaviorally-impaired Prnp(0/0) mice display the cardinal neuropathological hallmarks of spongiform pathology and reactive astrocytic gliosis that normally accompany prion disease. Consistent with the appearance of cerebellar ataxia as an early symptom in patients with Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker syndrome (GSS), an inherited form of human prion disease, motor coordination and balance defects manifested in a transgenic (Tg) mouse model of GSS considerably earlier than the onset of end-stage neurodegenerative disease. Our results are consistent with a mechanism in which loss of normal PrP(C) function is an important pathological component of prion diseases.

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