PLoS pathogens

Transgenic Mouse Bioassay: Evidence That Rabbits Are Susceptible to a Variety of Prion Isolates.

PMID 26247589


Interspecies transmission of prions is a well-established phenomenon, both experimentally and under field conditions. Upon passage through new hosts, prion strains have proven their capacity to change their properties and this is a source of strain diversity which needs to be considered when assessing the potential risks associated with consumption of prion contaminated protein sources. Rabbits were considered for decades to be a prion resistant species until proven otherwise recently. To determine the extent of rabbit susceptibility to prions and to assess the effects of passage of different prion strains through this species a transgenic mouse model overexpressing rabbit PrPC was developed (TgRab). Intracerebral challenges with prion strains originating from a variety of species including field isolates (ovine SSBP/1 scrapie, Nor98- scrapie; cattle BSE, BSE-L and cervid CWD), experimental murine strains (ME7 and RML) and experimentally obtained ruminant (sheepBSE) and rabbit (de novo NZW) strains were performed. On first passage TgRab were susceptible to the majority of prions (Cattle BSE, SheepBSE, BSE-L, de novo NZW, ME7 and RML) tested with the exception of SSBP/1 scrapie, CWD and Nor98 scrapie. Furthermore, TgRab were capable of propagating strain-specific features such as differences in incubation periods, histological brain lesions, abnormal prion (PrPd) deposition profiles and proteinase-K (PK) resistant western blotting band patterns. Our results confirm previous studies proving that rabbits are not resistant to prion infection and show for the first time that rabbits are susceptible to PrPd originating in a number of other species. This should be taken into account when choosing protein sources to feed rabbits.