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Species Specificity in the Cell-Free Conversion of Prion Protein to Protease-Resistant Forms: A Model for the Scrapie Species Barrier

David A. Kocisko, Suzette A. Priola, Gregory J. Raymond, Bruce Chesebro, Peter T. Lansbury, Jr. and Byron Caughey
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 92, No. 9 (Apr. 25, 1995), pp. 3923-3927
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2367459
Page Count: 5
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Species Specificity in the Cell-Free Conversion of Prion Protein to Protease-Resistant Forms: A Model for the Scrapie Species Barrier
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Abstract

Scrapie is a transmissible neurodegenerative disease that appears to result from an accumulation in the brain of an abnormal protease-resistant isoform of prion protein (PrP) called PrPsc. Conversion of the normal, protease-sensitive form of PrP (PrPc) to protease-resistant forms like PrPsc has been demonstrated in a cell-free reaction composed largely of hamster PrPc and PrPsc. We now report studies of the species specificity of this cell-free reaction using mouse, hamster, and chimeric PrP molecules. Combinations of hamster PrPc with hamster PrPsc and mouse PrPc with mouse PrPsc resulted in the conversion of PrPc to protease-resistant forms. Protease-resistant PrP species were also generated in the nonhomologous reaction of hamster PrPc with mouse PrPsc, but little conversion was observed in the reciprocal reaction. Glycosylation of the PrPc precursors was not required for species specificity in the conversion reaction. The relative conversion efficiencies correlated with the relative transmissibilities of these strains of scrapie between mice and hamsters. Conversion experiments performed with chimeric mouse/hamster PrPc precursors indicated that differences between PrPc and PrPsc at residues 139, 155, and 170 affected the conversion efficiency and the size of the resultant protease-resistant PrP species. We conclude that there is species specificity in the cell-free interactions that lead to the conversion of PrPc to protease-resistant forms. This specificity may be the molecular basis for the barriers to interspecies transmission of scrapie and other transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in vivo.

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