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Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2011 Jan 1;16:169-86.

Understanding the neurospecificity of Prion protein signaling.

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  • 1INSERM U747, Paris Descartes University, 75006 Paris, France.


The cellular prion protein PrP(C) is the normal counterpart of the scrapie prion protein PrP(Sc), the main component of the infectious agent of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). It is a ubiquitous cell-surface glycoprotein, abundantly expressed in neurons, which constitute the targets of TSE pathogenesis. The presence of PrP(C) at the surface of neurons is an absolute requirement for the development of prion diseases and corruption of PrP(C) function(s) within an infectious context emerges as a proximal cause for PrP(Sc)-induced neurodegeneration. Experimental evidence gained over the past decade indicates that PrP(C) has the capacity to mobilize promiscuous signal transduction cascades that, notably, contribute to cell homeostasis. Beyond ubiquitous effectors, much data converge onto a neurospecificity of PrP(C) signaling, which may be the clue to neuronal cell demise in prion disorders. In this article, we highlight the requirement of PrP(C) for TSEs-associated neurodegeneration and review the current knowledge of PrP(C)-dependent signal transduction in neuronal cells and its implications for PrP(Sc)-mediated neurotoxicity.

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