Degeneration of skeletal muscle, peripheral nerves, and the central nervous system in transgenic mice overexpressing wild-type prion proteins

Cell. 1994 Jan 14;76(1):117-29. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(94)90177-5.


Prion diseases of humans and animals are known to be caused by infection with prions containing PrPSc or mutation of the prion protein (PrP) gene. During transgenetic studies, we discovered that uninoculated older mice harboring high copy numbers of wild-type (wt) PrP transgenes derived from Syrian hamsters (SHa), sheep (She), and PrP-B mice developed truncal ataxia, hindlimb paralysis, and tremors. These transgenic (Tg) mice exhibited a profound necrotizing myopathy involving skeletal muscle, a demyelinating polyneuropathy, and focal vacuolation of the central nervous system. Development of disease was dependent on transgene dosage. For example, half of all Tg(SHaPrP+/+)7 mice homozygous for the SHaPrP transgene array developed disease by approximately 460 days of age, while no hemizygous Tg(SHaPrP+/o)7 mice became ill before 650 days. The novel neurologic syndrome found in older Tg(wtPrP) mice implies that overexpression of wtPrPC is pathogenic and widens the spectrum of prion diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / pathology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cricetinae
  • Demyelinating Diseases / genetics
  • Demyelinating Diseases / pathology
  • Demyelinating Diseases / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / analysis
  • Gliosis / pathology
  • Homozygote
  • Male
  • Mesocricetus
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Muscles / pathology*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Pedigree
  • Peripheral Nerves / pathology*
  • Prion Diseases / genetics*
  • Prion Diseases / pathology*
  • Prion Diseases / physiopathology
  • Prions / genetics*
  • Prions / pathogenicity
  • Sheep


  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Prions