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J Gen Virol. 2012 Dec;93(Pt 12):2749-56. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.039008-0. Epub 2012 Sep 12.

Significant differences in incubation times in sheep infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy result from variation at codon 141 in the PRNP gene.

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Neurobiology Division, The Roslin Institute and R(D)SVS, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush, Midlothian, Edinburgh EH25 9RG, UK.


The susceptibility of sheep to prion infection is linked to variation in the PRNP gene, which encodes the prion protein. Common polymorphisms occur at codons 136, 154 and 171. Sheep which are homozygous for the A(136)R(154)Q(171) allele are the most susceptible to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The effect of other polymorphisms on BSE susceptibility is unknown. We orally infected ARQ/ARQ Cheviot sheep with equal amounts of BSE brain homogenate and a range of incubation periods was observed. When we segregated sheep according to the amino acid (L or F) encoded at codon 141 of the PRNP gene, the shortest incubation period was observed in LL(141) sheep, whilst incubation periods in FF(141) and LF(141) sheep were significantly longer. No statistically significant differences existed in the expression of total prion protein or the disease-associated isoform in BSE-infected sheep within each genotype subgroup. This suggested that the amino acid encoded at codon 141 probably affects incubation times through direct effects on protein misfolding rates.

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