Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

What bank voles can teach us about prion disease transmission and neurodegeneration

Date:
April 3, 2014
Source:
PLOS
Summary:
Transmission of prions between species is inefficient, and only a small proportion of exposed recipients become sick within their lifetimes. A new study takes a close look at one exception to this rule: bank voles appear to lack a species barrier for prion transmission, and their universal susceptibility turns out to be both informative and useful for the development of strategies to prevent prion transmission.

This image shows accumulation of misfolded, toxic prion protein (brown staining) in the brain of a transgenic mouse expressing bank vole PrP and challenged with human variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) prions.
Credit: Image courtesy of Dr. Joel Watts

When cannibals ate brains of people who died from prion disease, many of them fell ill with the fatal neurodegenerative disease as well. Likewise, when cows were fed protein contaminated with bovine prions, many of them developed mad cow disease. On the other hand, transmission of prions between species, for example from cows, sheep, or deer to humans, is -- fortunately -- inefficient, and only a small proportion of exposed recipients become sick within their lifetimes.

A study published on April 3rd in PLOS Pathogens takes a close look at one exception to this rule: bank voles appear to lack a species barrier for prion transmission, and their universal susceptibility turns out to be both informative and useful for the development of strategies to prevent prion transmission.

Prions are misfolded, toxic versions of a protein called PrP, which in its normal form is present in all mammalian species that have been examined. Toxic prions are "infectious"; they can induce existing, properly folded PrP proteins to convert into the disease-associated prion form. Prion diseases are rare, but they share features with more common neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease.

Trying to understand the unusual susceptibility of bank voles to prions from other species, Stanley Prusiner, Joel Watts, Kurt Giles and colleagues, from the University of California in San Francisco, USA, first tested whether the susceptibility is an intrinsic property of the voles' PrP, or whether other factors present in these rodents make them vulnerable.

The scientists introduced into mice the gene that codes for the normal bank vole prion protein, thereby generating mice that express bank vole PrP, but not mouse PrP. When these mice get older, some of them spontaneously develop neurologic illness, but in the younger ones the bank vole PrP is in its normal, benign folded state. The scientists then exposed young mice to toxic misfolded prions from 8 different species, including human, cattle, elk, sheep, and hamster.

They found that all of these foreign-species prions can cause prion disease in the transgenic mice, and that the disease develops often more rapidly than it does in bank voles. The latter is likely because the transgenic mice express higher levels of bank vole PrP than are naturally present in the voles.

The results show that the universal susceptibility of bank voles to cross-species prion transmission is an intrinsic property of bank vole PrP. Because the transgenic mice develop prion disease rapidly, the scientists propose that the mice will be useful tools in studying the processes by which toxic prions "convert" healthy PrP and thereby destroy the brain. And because that process is similar across many neurodegenerative diseases, better understanding prion disease development might have broader implications.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by PLOS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Joel C. Watts, Kurt Giles, Smita Patel, Abby Oehler, Stephen J. DeArmond, Stanley B. Prusiner. Evidence That Bank Vole PrP Is a Universal Acceptor for Prions. PLoS Pathogens, 2014; 10 (4): e1003990 DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1003990

Cite This Page:

PLOS. "What bank voles can teach us about prion disease transmission and neurodegeneration." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140403212519.htm>.
PLOS. (2014, April 3). What bank voles can teach us about prion disease transmission and neurodegeneration. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140403212519.htm
PLOS. "What bank voles can teach us about prion disease transmission and neurodegeneration." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140403212519.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) Breeze, a portable breathalyzer, gets you home safely by instantly showing your blood alcohol content, and with one tap, lets you call an Uber, a cab or a friend from your contact list to pick you up. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A study suggests that parents become desensitized to violent movies as well as children, which leads them to allow their kids to view violent films. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins