Prion diseases, or transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), are fatal neurodegenerative diseases affecting humans, cervids, bovids, and ovids. The absolute requirement of PrPC expression to generate prion diseases and the lack of instructional nucleic acid define prions as unique infectious agents. Prions exhibit species-specific tropism, inferring that unique prion strains exist that preferentially infct certain host species and confront transmission barriers to heterologous host species. However, transmission barriers are not absolute. Scientific consensus agrees that the sheep TSE scrapie probably breached the transmission barrier to cattle causing bovine spongiform encephalopathy that subsequently breached the human transmission barrier and likely caused several hundred deaths by a new-variant form of the human TSE Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the UK and Europe. The impact to human health, emotion and economies can still be felt in areas like farming, blood and organ donations and the threat of a latent TSE epidemic. This precedent raises the real possibility of other TSEs, like chronic wasting disease of cervids, overcoming similar human transmission barriers. A groundbreaking discovery made last year revealed that mice infected with heterologous prion strains facing significant transmission barriers replicated prions far more readily in spleens than brains6. Furthermore, these splenic prions exhibited weakened transmission barriers and expanded host ranges compared to neurogenic prions. These data question conventional wisdom of avoiding neural tissue to avoid prion xenotransmission, when more promiscuous prions may lurk in extraneural tissues. Data derived from work previously funded by NIH demonstrate that Complement receptors CD21/35 bind prions and high density PrPC and differentially impact prion disease depending on the prion isolate or strain used. Recent advances in live animal and whole organ imaging have led us to generate preliminary data to support novel, innovative approaches to assessing prion capture and transport. We plan to test our unifying hypothesis for this proposal that CD21/35 control the processes of peripheral prion capture, transport, strain selection and xenotransmission in the following specific aims. 1. Assess the role of CD21/35 in splenic prion strain selection and host range expansion. 2. Determine whether CD21/35 and C1q differentially bind distinct prion strains 3. Monitor the effects of CD21/35 on prion trafficking in real time and space 4. Assess the role of CD21/35 in incunabular prion trafficking
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or prion diseases, are devastating illnesses that greatly impact public health, agriculture and wildlife in North America and around the world. The impact to human health, emotion and economies can still be felt in areas like farming, blood and organ donations and the threat of a latent TSE epidemic. This precedent raises the real possibility of other TSEs, like chronic wasting disease (CWD) of cervids, overcoming similar human transmission barriers. Early this year Canada reported its first case of BSE in over a decade audits first case of CWD in farmed elk in three years, underscoring the need for continued vigilance and research. Identifying mechanisms of transmission and zoonoses remains an extremely important and intense area of research that will benefit human and other animal populations.