Does an ultra violet photooxidation of the manganese-loaded/copper-depleted prion protein in the retina initiate the pathogenesis of TSE?

Med Hypotheses. 2001 Jul;57(1):29-45. doi: 10.1054/mehy.2001.1305.


Ecosystems supporting clusters of sporadic transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) are characterized by common properties of high-manganese/low-copper, zinc, selenium mineral status, and high-altitude/snow-covered/pre-cambrian mountain terrain where above-average intensities of ultra violet/ozone oxidants are prevalent. Cell culture trials have confirmed the hypothesis that manganese (Mn) substitutes at Prion Protein's (PrP's) vacated copper (Cu) domain, whereupon PrP loses its Cu-mediated antioxidant function, transforming into a protease-resistant misfolded isoform that aggregates into fibril 'tombstone' structures - the key hallmark distinguishing TSE central nervous system (CNS) pathology. The cellular localisation of PrP suggests PrP serves a 'front line' contributory role in neutralizing radicals generated by incoming environmental oxidants, whilst an intensive expression of PrP messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) in the retina, melanocytes, epidermis, etc., suggests PrP performs a key antioxidant role as a 'photooxidative shock absorber'; binding of porphyrin IX, Congo red and other photosensitisers to PrPc suggests PrPc serves as an integral associate of the porphyrin/melanin chromophore electron transfer chain; thereby serving as a quencher of singlet O2/superoxide generated by photoenergised chromophores/xeno photosensitisers. It is proposed that sporadic TSE pathogenesis is initiated in the retina of environmentally/genetically predisposed individuals via a two-stage chronic toxic process - Mn substitution at PrP's Cu domain forming a stable Mn2+-PrP complex, followed by an ultra violet in situ photo-oxidization of the Mn2+ component; whereby the latent 'Jekyll and Hyde' capacity of the Mn2+-PrP conjugate is activated into the fully fledged, 'infectious' lethal auto-oxidizing, Mn3+-PrP 'prion' agent. Thus, PrPc's Cu-mediated antioxidant function is replaced by a Mn3+-mediated autooxidant dysfunction. Could the UK's increased loading of a cocktail of environmental oxidants that penetrated the CNS of the UK bovine (ultra violet microwaves/ozone/systemic cu-chelating insecticides) account for a more virulent Mn4+ mediated acceleration of the TSE degenerative process in Mn-contaminated/genetically predisposed individuals, manifesting as the widespread emergence of new-variant bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)/variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (VCJD)/FSE in younger mammals?

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Copper / metabolism*
  • Manganese / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Photochemistry
  • Prion Diseases / etiology*
  • Prions / metabolism*
  • Retina / metabolism*
  • Ultraviolet Rays*


  • Prions
  • Manganese
  • Copper