Accumulation of an abnormal, protease-resistant form of an endogenous protein, PrP, is a characteristic feature of scrapie and related transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. This abnormal isoform is also present in the amyloid plaques that are often observed in these diseases. In mouse neuroblastoma cells persistently infected with scrapie, the abnormal protease-resistant isoform of PrP is derived from an operationally normal protease-sensitive precursor. Conversion of PrP to the protease-resistant state occurs either on the plasma membrane or along an endocytic pathway by an unknown mechanism. Inhibitors of protease-resistant PrP accumulation have been identified, and these include the amyloid-binding dye Congo red and certain sulfated glycans. The similarity of these compounds to sulfated glycosaminoglycans, which are components of all natural amyloids, has led to the hypothesis that the inhibitors act by competitively blocking an interaction between endogenous glycosaminoglycan(s) and PrP that is critical for amyloidogenic PrP accumulation. The proven prophylactic effect of these sulfated glycans in animal models of scrapie suggests that they represent a group of compounds that might interfere with the pathogenic formation of amyloid in a variety of diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease.