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Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2013 Apr 15;152(3-4):348-58. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2013.01.005. Epub 2013 Jan 21.

Pathogenesis of scrapie in ARQ/ARQ sheep after subcutaneous infection: effect of lymphadenectomy and immune cell subset changes in relation to prion protein accumulation.

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Moredun Research Institute, Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Penicuik, Scotland, UK.


It is well established that the infectious agent of scrapie can replicate in the lymphoreticular system (LRS). However, the effects of removal of LRS target tissues on the pathogenesis of the infection and the accumulation of disease-associated prion protein (PrP(d)) in LRS tissues on specific immune cell subsets are poorly understood aspects. To address these questions 16 ARQ/ARQ sheep were subcutaneously inoculated in the drainage area of the prefemoral lymph node with brain homogenate derived from Suffolk sheep naturally infected with scrapie. Fourteen sheep were then subjected to either early (14-17 days post-inoculation [dpi]) or late (175-201 dpi) lymphadenectomy and culled at preclinical or clinical stages of infection. Neither late nor even early lymphadenectomy prevented infection or had any effect on the accumulation of PrP(d) in the LRS or CNS suggesting a rapid organic dissemination of the infectious agent after inoculation. Lymph nodes from eight scrapie inoculated sheep selected on the basis of the amount of PrP(d) in their LRS tissues (negative, low or high) were examined for six different immune cell markers. The PrP(d) negative lymph nodes from two sheep with no evidence of scrapie infection showed lower numbers of cluster of determination (CD) 21 positive cells than PrP(d) positive nodes, irrespective of their location (hind leg or head). However, quantitative differences in the expression of this marker were not detected when comparing lymph nodes with low and high levels of PrP(d) accumulation, suggesting that proliferation of CD21 positive cells is related to scrapie infection, but not directly linked to the magnitude of PrP(d) accumulation. An additional observation of the study was that sheep that were methionin-threonine at codon 112 of the prion protein gene showed lower attack rates than methionine homozygotes (67% and 100%, respectively) and also generally lower levels of PrP(d) accumulation in the LRS and brain and increased survival times, suggesting an influence of such polymorphism in the susceptibility to scrapie.

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