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Nat Med. 1998 Dec;4(12):1429-33.

PrP expression in B lymphocytes is not required for prion neuroinvasion.

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Institute of Neuropathology, University of Z├╝rich, Switzerland.


Prion diseases are typically initiated by infection of peripheral sites, as in the case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, kuru and most cases of iatrogenic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. In mouse scrapie, prion infectivity accumulates in lymphoid organs, and the absence of mature B lymphocytes prevents peripherally administered prions from inducing central nervous system disease. We have now assessed whether expression of the cellular prion protein, PrPc, is required for B lymphocytes to mediate neuroinvasion. We found that repopulation of SCID and Rag-1(-/-) mice with fetal liver cells from either PrP-expressing or PrP-deficient mice and from T-cell deficient mice, but not from B-cell deficient mice, is equally efficient in restoring neuroinvasion after intraperitoneal inoculation of scrapie prions. These results indicate that cells whose maturation depends on B cells or their products, such as follicular dendritic cells, may enhance neuroinvasion. Alternatively, B cells may transport prions to the nervous system by a PrP-independent mechanism.

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