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Environ Sci Technol. 2009 Oct 15;43(20):7728-33. doi: 10.1021/es901385t.

Prion protein adsorption to soil in a competitive matrix is slow and reduced.

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Department of Civil Engineering, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Peter Kiewit Institute, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.


It is likely that the soil environment serves as a stable reservoir of infectious CWD and scrapie prions as well as a potential reservoir of BSE. Prion adsorption to soil could play an important role in prion mobility, proteolysis, and infectivity. We modified previously published methods to quantify adsorbed prions via direct detection and studied prion adsorption to soil and soil minerals as a function of time through 60 days. Prion-infected brain homogenate was used as a complex, relevant prion source. We determined that maximum PrP adsorption requires days or weeks, depending on the soil or mineral, and is 2-5 orders of magnitude lower than previous studies using purified PrP(Sc) or recPrP. Because PrP adsorption to soil is slow and reduced in tissue homogenate, the possibility of prion transport in soil environments cannot be excluded and requires further investigation. Our results indicate that binding to soil may protect prions from degradation, consistent with prions' longevity in the environment. Adsorption of PrP to sterilized soil did not differ significantly from adsorption to unsterilized soil, which suggests that active biological processes do not significantly affect prion adsorption or degradation in the soil environment.

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