Cytosolic prion protein toxicity is independent of cellular prion protein expression and prion propagation

J Virol. 2007 Mar;81(6):2831-7. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02157-06. Epub 2006 Dec 20.


Prion diseases are transmissible neurodegenerative diseases caused by a conformational isoform of the prion protein (PrP), a host-encoded cell surface sialoglycoprotein. Recent evidence suggests a cytosolic fraction of PrP (cyPrP) functions either as an initiating factor or toxic element of prion disease. When expressed in cultured cells, cyPrP acquires properties of the infectious conformation of PrP (PrP(Sc)), including insolubility, protease resistance, aggregation, and toxicity. Transgenic mice (2D1 and 1D4 lines) that coexpress cyPrP and PrP(C) exhibit focal cerebellar atrophy, scratching behavior, and gait abnormalities suggestive of prion disease, although they lack protease-resistant PrP. To determine if the coexpression of PrP(C) is necessary or inhibitory to the phenotype of these mice, we crossed Tg1D4(Prnp(+/+)) mice with PrP-ablated mice (TgPrnp(o/o)) to generate Tg1D4(Prnp(o/o)) mice and followed the development of disease and pathological phenotype. We found no difference in the onset of symptoms or the clinical or pathological phenotype of disease between Tg1D4(Prnp(+/+)) and Tg1D4(Prnp(o/o)) mice, suggesting that cyPrP and PrP(C) function independently in the disease state. Additionally, Tg1D4(Prnp(o/o)) mice were resistant to challenge with mouse-adapted scrapie (RML), suggesting cyPrP is inaccessible to PrP(Sc). We conclude that disease phenotype and cellular toxicity associated with the expression of cyPrP are independent of PrP(C) and the generation of typical prion disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Cytosol / metabolism*
  • Disease Progression
  • Gene Expression*
  • Injections, Intraventricular
  • Leupeptins / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neuroblastoma / pathology
  • Neuroblastoma / virology
  • PrPSc Proteins / genetics
  • PrPSc Proteins / metabolism*
  • PrPSc Proteins / pathogenicity
  • Prions / genetics
  • Prions / metabolism*
  • Transfection


  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • Leupeptins
  • PrPSc Proteins
  • Prions
  • benzyloxycarbonylleucyl-leucyl-leucine aldehyde