Early Generation of New PrPSc on Blood Vessels after Brain Microinjection of Scrapie in Mice.

PMID 26396245


Aggregation of misfolded host proteins in the central nervous system is believed to be important in the pathogenic process in several neurodegenerative diseases of humans, including prion diseases, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. In these diseases, protein misfolding and aggregation appear to expand through a process of seeded polymerization. Prion diseases occur in both humans and animals and are experimentally transmissible orally or by injection, thus providing a controllable model of other neurodegenerative protein misfolding diseases. In rodents and ruminants, prion disease has a slow course, lasting months to years. Although prion infectivity has been detected in brain tissue at 3 to 4 weeks postinfection (p.i.), the details of early prion replication in the brain are not well understood. Here we studied the localization and quantitation of PrPSc generation in vivo starting at 30 min postmicroinjection of scrapie into the brain. In C57BL mice at 3 days p.i., generation of new PrPSc was detected by immunohistochemistry and immunoblot assays, and at 7 days p.i., new generation was confirmed by real-time quaking-induced conversion assay. The main site of new PrPSc generation was near the outer basement membrane of small and medium blood vessels. The finding and localization of replication at this site so early after injection have not been reported previously. This predominantly perivascular location suggested that structural components of the blood vessel basement membrane or perivascular astrocytes might act as cofactors in the initial generation of PrPSc. The location of PrPSc replication at the basement membrane also implies a role for the brain interstitial fluid drainage in the early infection process. Neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and prion diseases, of humans are characterized by misfolding and aggregation of certain proteins, resulting in the destruction of brain tissue. In these diseases, the damage process spreads progressively within the central nervous system, but only prion diseases are known to be transmissible between individuals. Here we used microinjection of infectious prion protein (PrPSc) into the mouse brain to model early events of iatrogenic prion transmission via surgical instruments or tissue grafts. At 3 and 7 days postinjection, we detected the generation of new PrPSc, mostly on the outer walls of blood vessels near the injection site. This location and very early replication were surprising and unique. Perivascular prion replication suggested the transport of injected PrPSc via brain interstitial fluid to the basement membranes of blood vessels, where interactions with possible cofactors made by astrocytes or endothelia might facilitate the earliest cycles of prion infection.