Early increase and late decrease of purkinje cell dendritic spine density in prion-infected organotypic mouse cerebellar cultures

PLoS One. 2013 Dec 2;8(12):e81776. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081776. eCollection 2013.

Abstract

Prion diseases are infectious neurodegenerative diseases associated with the accumulation of protease-resistant prion protein, neuronal loss, spongiform change and astrogliosis. In the mouse model, the loss of dendritic spines is one of the earliest pathological changes observed in vivo, occurring 4-5 weeks after the first detection of protease-resistant prion protein in the brain. While there are cell culture models of prion infection, most do not recapitulate the neuropathology seen in vivo. Only the recently developed prion organotypic slice culture assay has been reported to undergo neuronal loss and the development of some aspects of prion pathology, namely small vacuolar degeneration and tubulovesicular bodies. Given the rapid replication of prions in this system, with protease-resistant prion protein detectable by 21 days, we investigated whether the dendritic spine loss and altered dendritic morphology seen in prion disease might also develop within the lifetime of this culture system. Indeed, six weeks after first detection of protease-resistant prion protein in tga20 mouse cerebellar slice cultures infected with RML prion strain, we found a statistically significant loss of Purkinje cell dendritic spines and altered dendritic morphology in infected cultures, analogous to that seen in vivo. In addition, we found a transient but statistically significant increase in Purkinje cell dendritic spine density during infection, at the time when protease-resistant prion protein was first detectable in culture. Our findings support the use of this slice culture system as one which recapitulates prion disease pathology and one which may facilitate study of the earliest stages of prion disease pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Count
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dendritic Spines / metabolism*
  • Dendritic Spines / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Prions / metabolism*
  • Purkinje Cells / pathology*
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Time Factors

Substances

  • Biomarkers
  • Prions

Grant support

Funding was provided by PrioNet Canada (Project number G119990412; http://www.nce-rce.gc.ca/NetworksCentres-CentresReseaux/PreviouslyFunded-FinancesAnterieurement_eng.asp) and the Alberta Prion Research Institute (Project number G224200029; www.prioninstitute.ca). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.