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Gene. 2012 Jun 10;501(1):49-51. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2012.03.068. Epub 2012 Apr 4.

Extended scrapie incubation time in goats singly heterozygous for PRNP S146 or K222.

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Animal Disease Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, PO Box 646630, Pullman, WA 99164, USA.


Scrapie is the transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) of sheep and goats, and scrapie eradication in sheep is based in part on strong genetic resistance to classical scrapie. Goats may serve as a scrapie reservoir, and to date there has been no experimental inoculation confirming strong genetic resistance in goats. Two prion protein variants (amino acid substitutions S146 and K222) in goats have been significantly underrepresented in scrapie cases though present in scrapie-exposed flocks, and have demonstrated low cell-free protein conversion efficiency to the disease form (PrP(D)). To test degree of genetic resistance conferred in live animals with consistent exposure, we performed the first oral scrapie challenge of goats singly heterozygous for either PRNP S146 or K222. All N146-Q222 homozygotes became clinically scrapie positive by an average of 24months, but all S146 and K222 heterozygotes remain scrapie negative by both rectal biopsy and clinical signs at significantly longer incubation times (P<0.0001 for both comparisons). Recent reports indicate small numbers of S146 and K222 heterozygous goats have become naturally infected with scrapie, suggesting these alleles do not confer complete resistance in the heterozygous state but rather extend incubation. The oral challenge results presented here confirm extended incubation observed in a recent intracerebral challenge of K222 heterozygotes, and to our knowledge provide the first demonstration of extended incubation in S146 heterozygotes. These results suggest longer relevant trace-back histories in scrapie-eradication programs for animals bearing these alleles and strengthen the case for additional challenge experiments in both homozygotes to assess potential scrapie resistance.

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