Reproduction (Cambridge, England)

Prion (PrPC) expression in ovine uteroplacental tissues increases after estrogen treatment of ovariectomized ewes and during early pregnancy.

PMID 24664411


Scrapie in sheep is spread laterally by placental transmission of an infectious misfolded form (PrPSc) of a normal prion protein (PrPC) used as a template in PrPSc formation. We hypothesized that PrPC would be expressed in uterine and placental tissues and estradiol-17β (E2) would affect uterine PrPC expression. PrPC expression was evaluated in the uterus of long-term ovariectomized (OVX) ewes treated with an E2 implant for 2-24 h and in uteroplacental tissues from day 20 to day 30 of pregnancy. Expression of PrPC mRNA and PrPC protein increased in the uterus after E2 treatment of OVX ewes. In the maternal placenta, expression of PrPC mRNA and PrPC protein were unchanged, but in the fetal membranes (FM) PrPC mRNA and PrPC protein expression increased from day 20 to day 28. In the nonpregnant uterus, PrPC protein was immunolocalized at apical borders of the surface epithelium, in outer smooth muscle layers of large blood vessels, and in scattered stromal cells of the deep intercaruncular areas of the uterus. In the maternal placenta, PrPC protein was immunolocalized in the cytoplasm of flattened luminal epithelial cells apposed to the FM, whereas in the FM PrPC protein was in trophoblast cells and was also in several tissues of the developing embryo during early pregnancy. These data linking estrogen stimulation to increases in PrPC expression in uteroplacental tissues suggest that PrPC has a specific function during the estrous cycle and early pregnancy. Future studies should determine whether or not estrogen influences PrPC expression in other tissues, such as the nervous system and brain.