Molecular screening of sheep for bovine spongiform encephalopathy

Neurosci Lett. 1998 Oct 23;255(3):159-62. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3940(98)00736-8.


Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) may have transmitted to sheep through feed and pose a risk to human health. Sheep BSE cannot be clinically distinguished from scrapie, and conventional strain typing would be impractical on a significant scale. As human prion strains can be distinguished by differences in prion protein (PrPsc) conformation and glycosylation we have applied PrP(Sc) typing to sheep. We found multiple Western blot patterns of PrP(Sc) in scrapie, consistent with the known scrapie strain diversity in sheep. Sheep passaged BSE showed a PrP(Sc) banding pattern similar to BSE passaged in other species [Collinge, J., Sidle, K.C.L., Meads, J., Ironside, J. and Hill, A.F., Nature, 383 (1996) 685-690], both in terms of fragment size following proteinase K cleavage and abundance of diglycosylated PrP. However, none of the historical or contemporary scrapie cases studied had a PrP(Sc) type identical to sheep BSE. While more extensive studies, including sheep of all PrP genotypes, will be required to fully evaluate these findings, these results suggest that large scale screening of sheep for BSE may be possible.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Encephalopathy, Bovine Spongiform / genetics*
  • Encephalopathy, Bovine Spongiform / metabolism
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Glycosylation
  • PrPSc Proteins / genetics
  • PrPSc Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Conformation
  • Scrapie / genetics
  • Scrapie / metabolism
  • Sheep / genetics*


  • PrPSc Proteins