Journal of virology

Prion infection of mouse brain reveals multiple new upregulated genes involved in neuroinflammation or signal transduction.

PMID 25505076


Gliosis is often a preclinical pathological finding in neurodegenerative diseases, including prion diseases, but the mechanisms facilitating gliosis and neuronal damage in these diseases are not understood. To expand our knowledge of the neuroinflammatory response in prion diseases, we assessed the expression of key genes and proteins involved in the inflammatory response and signal transduction in mouse brain at various times after scrapie infection. In brains of scrapie-infected mice at pre- and postclinical stages, we identified 15 previously unreported differentially expressed genes related to inflammation or activation of the STAT signal transduction pathway. Levels for the majority of differentially expressed genes increased with time postinfection. In quantitative immunoblotting experiments of STAT proteins, STAT1α, phosphorylated-STAT1α (pSTAT1α), and pSTAT3 were increased between 94 and 131 days postinfection (p.i.) in brains of mice infected with strain 22L. Furthermore, a select group of STAT-associated genes was increased preclinically during scrapie infection, suggesting early activation of the STAT signal transduction pathway. Comparison of inflammatory markers between mice infected with scrapie strains 22L and RML indicated that the inflammatory responses and gene expression profiles in the brains were strikingly similar, even though these scrapie strains infect different brain regions. The endogenous interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra), an inflammatory marker, was newly identified as increasing preclinically in our model and therefore might influence scrapie pathogenesis in vivo. However, in IL-1Ra-deficient or overexpressor transgenic mice inoculated with scrapie, neither loss nor overexpression of IL-1Ra demonstrated any observable effect on gliosis, protease-resistant prion protein (PrPres) formation, disease tempo, pathology, or expression of the inflammatory genes analyzed. Prion infection leads to PrPres deposition, gliosis, and neuroinflammation in the central nervous system before signs of clinical illness. Using a scrapie mouse model of prion disease to assess various time points postinoculation, we identified 15 unreported genes that were increased in the brains of scrapie-infected mice and were associated with inflammation and/or JAK-STAT activation. Comparison of mice infected with two scrapie strains (22L and RML), which have dissimilar neuropathologies, indicated that the inflammatory responses and gene expression profiles in the brains were similar. Genes that increased prior to clinical signs might be involved in controlling scrapie infection or in facilitating damage to host tissues. We tested the possible role of the endogenous IL-1Ra, which was increased at 70 days p.i. In scrapie-infected mice deficient in or overexpressing IL-1Ra, there was no observable effect on gliosis, PrPres formation, disease tempo, pathology, or expression of inflammatory genes analyzed.