Monday, December 21, 2009

Distinct Molecular Signature of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Prion in Pigs

Distinct Molecular Signature of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Prion in Pigs

To the Editor: In a recent article in Emerging Infectious Diseases, Espinosa et al. (1) investigated the porcine transmission barrier to infection with bovine and ovine transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in transgenic mice expressing the porcine prion protein. Bovine spongiform encepatholopathy of the classical type (BSE) derived from cattle and sheep, as well as atypical scrapie, transmitted to these mice, although with different effi - ciencies. Whereas sheep BSE showed a 100% attack rate, cattle BSE and atypical scrapie showed a higher transmission barrier in the fi rst passage. Unexpectedly, the electrophoretic profi le of the proteinase K–resistant prion protein (PrPres) in Western immunoblot (WB) analysis of all 3 TSEs shifted toward a common signature upon transmission. This was a 3-band pattern with a predominant monoglycosylated PrPres moiety and, therefore, clearly differed from those of the BSE and atypical scrapie inocula. The authors speculated that the porcine cellular prion protein (PrPc) might allow only for few options as it changes its conformation to the disease-associated prion protein. However, whether this effect is attributable to the porcine PrPc transgene or to the genetic background of the mouse model remains unknown.

To our knowledge, BSE has been successfully transmitted to pigs in 1 study, but WB data were not reported (2). We had access to central nervous system tissues of 1 of these animals (kindly provided by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency TSE Archive, Weybridge, UK) and aimed at assessing whether a similar effect occurs when cattle BSE affects pigs. Our results show a PrPres signature in BSEinfected pigs similar to that described for the porcine PrPc transgenic mice and clearly different from that in cattle (Figure). These fi ndings support the fi nding by Espinosa et al. that the molecular shift most likely was due to intrinsic properties of the porcine PrPc. Therefore, in this respect the mouse model appears to refl ect the situation in the pig.

BSE prions are considered to transmit to other species, such as exotic ruminants, cats, macaques, humans, sheep, and goats, without any obvious alterations of the molecular phenotype (3,4). Our study provides evidence that the molecular phenotype of classical BSE also may shift upon genuine interspecies transmission. Attempts to discriminate BSE from other prion diseases in humans and animals often rely at fi rst on the analysis of the PrPres signature in WB. Consequently, the situation described in our study complicates the interpretation of such disease surveillance data to assess public health risks for animal TSEs. Whether this applies to other TSEs and species remains to be addressed.

Figure. Molecular signature of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in pigs. A) Comparative Western immunoblot analysis of the proteinase K–resistant core fragment (PrPres) of the pathologic prion protein in BSE in cattle and in an experimentally BSE-infected pig using the monoclonal antibody 6H4 (Prionics, Schlieren, Switzerland). B) Average relative intensities of the diglycosylated (black bars), monoglycosylated (gray bars), and unglycosylated (white bars) PrPres moieties as determined by the Quantity One software package (Bio-Rad, Rheinach, Switzerland). Data are based on 4 independent runs, and error bars indicate SD. Note the different extent of PrPres glycosylation in bovine and porcine BSE. By contrast, the molecular masses of the unglycosylated PrPres were similar and scored 18.89 kDa (SD ± 0.28 kDa) and 18.90 kDa (SD ± 0.42 kDa) in bovine and porcine BSE, respectively. Molecular masses of the standards are indicated on the left in panel A.

Emerging Infectious Diseases • • Vol. 16, No. 1, January 2010

Torsten Seuberlich and Andreas Zurbriggen Author affi liation: University of Berne, Berne, Switzerland DOI: 10.3201/eid1601.091104


1. Espinosa JC, Herva ME, Andreoletti O, Padilla D, Lacroux C, Cassard H, et al. Transgenic mice expressing porcine prion protein resistant to classical scrapie but susceptible to sheep bovine spongiform encephalopathy and atypical scrapie. Emerg Infect Dis. 2009;15:1214–21. DOI: 10.3201/eid1508.081218

2. Wells GA, Hawkins SA, Austin AR, Ryder SJ, Done SH, Green RB, et al. Studies of the transmissibility of the agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy to pigs. J Gen Virol. 2003;84:1021–31.

3. Collinge J, Sidle KC, Meads J, Ironside J, Hill AF. Molecular analysis of prion strain variation and the aetiology of ‘new variant’ CJD. Nature. 1996;383:685–90.

4. Hill AF, Desbruslais M, Joiner S, Sidle KC, Gowland I, Collinge J, et al. The same prion strain causes vCJD and BSE. Nature. 1997;389:448–50.

Address for correspondence: Torsten Seuberlich, NeuroCentre, Reference Laboratory for TSE in Animals, University of Berne, Bremgartenstrasse 109a, CH-3001 Berne, Switzerland; email:

Thursday, October 15, 2009 Transmissibility studies of vacuolar changes in the rostral colliculus of pigs Research article Open Access T

Transmissibility studies of vacuolar changes in the rostral colliculus of pigs

Timm Konold*1,2, John Spiropoulos1, Melanie J Chaplin3, Leigh Thorne3, Yvonne I Spencer1, Gerald AH Wells1 and Steve AC Hawkins1 Address: 1Department of Pathology, Veterinary Laboratories Agency Weybridge, Woodham Lane, Addlestone, UK, 2Royal Veterinary College, Infection and Immunity Research Group, North Mymms, Hatfield, UK and 3Department of Molecular Pathogenesis and Genetics, Veterinary Laboratories Agency Weybridge, Woodham Lane, Addlestone, UK Email: Timm Konold* -; John Spiropoulos -; Melanie J Chaplin -; Leigh Thorne -; Yvonne I Spencer -; Gerald AH Wells -; Steve AC Hawkins - * Corresponding author

Abstract Background:

Histopathological examinations of brains from healthy pigs have revealed localised vacuolar changes, predominantly in the rostral colliculus, that are similar to the neuropil vacuolation featured in the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and have been described in pigs challenged parenterally with the agent causing bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Feedstuff containing BSE-contaminated meat and bone meal (MBM) may have been fed to pigs prior to the ban of mammalian MBM in feed of farmed livestock in the United Kingdom in 1996, but there is no evidence of the natural occurrence of a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) in the domestic pig. Furthermore, experimental transmission of BSE to pigs by the oral route has been unsuccessful. A study was conducted to investigate whether the localised vacuolar changes in the porcine brain were associated with a transmissible aetiology and therefore biologically significant. Two groups of ten pigs were inoculated parenterally with vacuolated rostral colliculus from healthy pigs either born before 1996 or born after 1996. Controls included ten pigs similarly inoculated with rostral colliculus from New Zealand-derived pigs and nine pigs inoculated with a bovine BSE brain homogenate. Results: None of the pigs inoculated with rostral colliculus developed a TSE-like neurological disease up to five years post inoculation when the study was terminated, and disease-associated prion protein, PrPd, was not detected in the brains of these pigs. By contrast, eight of nine BSE-inoculated pigs developed neurological signs, two of which had detectable PrPd by postmortem tests. No significant histopathological changes were detected to account for the clinical signs in the PrPd-negative, BSE-inoculated pigs. Conclusion: The findings in this study suggest that vacuolation in the porcine rostral colliculus is not caused by a transmissible agent and is probably a clinically insignificant change. The presence of neurological signs in pigs inoculated with BSE without detectable PrPd raises the possibility that the BSE agent may produce a prion disease in pigs that remains undetected by the current postmortem tests.




1: J Comp Pathol. 2000 Feb-Apr; 122(2-3): 131-43. Related Articles,


Click here to read

The neuropathology of experimental bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the pig.

Ryder SJ, Hawkins SA, Dawson M, Wells GA.

Veterinary Laboratories Agency Weybridge, Woodham Lane, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey, KT15 3NB, UK.

In an experimental study of the transmissibility of BSE to the pig, seven of 10 pigs, infected at 1-2 weeks of age by multiple-route parenteral inoculation with a homogenate of bovine brain from natural BSE cases developed lesions typical of spongiform encephalopathy. The lesions consisted principally of severe neuropil vacuolation affecting most areas of the brain, but mainly the forebrain. In addition, some vacuolar change was identified in the rostral colliculi and hypothalamic areas of normal control pigs. PrP accumulations were detected immunocytochemically in the brains of BSE-infected animals. PrP accumulation was sparse in many areas and its density was not obviously related to the degree of vacuolation. The patterns of PrP immunolabelling in control pigs differed strikingly from those in the infected animals.

PMID: 10684682 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]



1. CMO should be aware that a pig inoculated experimentally (ic, iv, and ip) with BSE brain suspension has after 15 months developed an illness, now confirmed as a spongiform encephalopathy. This is the first ever description of such a disease in a pig, although it seems there ar no previous attempts at experimental inoculation with animal material. The Southwood group had thought igs would not be susceptible. Most pigs are slaughtered when a few weeks old but there have been no reports of relevant neurological illness in breeding sows or other elderly pigs. ...see full text ;


So it is plausible pigs could be preclinically affected with BSE but since so few are allowed to reach adulthood this has not been recognised through clinical disease. ...



While this clearly is a cause for concern we should not jump to the conclusion that this means that pigs will necessarily be infected by bone and meat meal fed by the oral route as is the case with cattle. ...

we cannot rule out the possibility that unrecognised subclinical spongiform encephalopathy could be present in British pigs though there is no evidence for this: only with parenteral/implantable pharmaceuticals/devices is the theoretical risk to humans of sufficient concern to consider any action.

May I, at the outset, reiterate that we should avoid dissemination of papers relating to this experimental finding to prevent premature release of the information. ...

3. It is particularly important that this information is not passed outside the Department, until Ministers have decided how they wish it to be handled. ...

But it would be easier for us if pharmaceuticals/devices are not directly mentioned at all. ...

Our records show that while some use is made of porcine materials in medicinal products, the only products which would appear to be in a hypothetically ''higher risk'' area are the adrenocorticotrophic hormone for which the source material comes from outside the United Kingdom, namely America China Sweden France and Germany. The products are manufactured by Ferring and Armour. A further product, ''Zenoderm Corium implant'' manufactured by Ethicon, makes use of porcine skin - which is not considered to be a ''high risk'' tissue, but one of its uses is described in the data sheet as ''in dural replacement''. This product is sourced from the United Kingdom.....







pigs & pharmaceuticals


There are only two products using porcine brain and these use corticotrophin BP, made from porcine pituitary, source from outside the UK.............



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