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Biochemistry of Scrapie Pathogenesis


Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs or prion disease) are fatal neurodegenerative diseases such as scrapie, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), BSE and chronic wasting disease (CWD). Our project is aimed at understanding and thwarting the accumulation of PrP-res, the abnormal form of prion protein (PrP) that appears to underlie TSE transmission and pathogenesis.

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Using cell culture and cell-free systems we have <ol>
<li>Identified lysosomotropic amines, cysteine protease inhibitors and certain new PrP peptide fragments as potentially therapeutic new inhibitors of PrP-res formation,
<li>Described sites of interaction that occur during PrP-res formation,
<li>Described interactions between normal PrP and PrP-res molecules from different species that may control interspecies transmissibilities of TSEs,
<li>Determined effects of the membrane attachment of normal PrP on its conversion to PrP-res,
<li>Assayed the reversibility of PrP-res formation,
<li>Identified heparan sulfate and serum amyloid P component as stimulators of PrP-res formation,
<li>Assessed the ability of PrP-res from CWD-infected deer and elk to induce the conversion of normal PrP from humans, cattle and other species to PrP-res and
<li>Showed that a detergent can induce conformational changes and fibril formation in normal PrP that are reminiscent of PrP-res formation.</ol>

Caughey, Byron
DHHS/NIH - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
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