Accumulating lines of evidence indicate that the N-terminal domain of prion protein (PrP) is involved in prion susceptibility in mice. In this study, to investigate the role of the octapeptide repeat (OR) region alone in the N-terminal domain for the susceptibility and pathogenesis of prion disease, we intracerebrally inoculated RML scrapie prions into tg(PrPΔOR)/Prnp(0/0) mice, which express mouse PrP missing only the OR region on the PrP-null background. Incubation times of these mice were not extended. Protease-resistant PrPΔOR, or PrP(Sc)ΔOR, was easily detectable but lower in the brains of these mice, compared to that in control wild-type mice. Consistently, prion titers were slightly lower and astrogliosis was milder in their brains. However, in their spinal cords, PrP(Sc)ΔOR and prion titers were abundant and astrogliosis was as strong as in control wild-type mice. These results indicate that the role of the OR region in prion susceptibility and pathogenesis of the disease is limited. We also found that the PrP(Sc)ΔOR, including the pre-OR residues 23-50, was unusually protease-resistant, indicating that deletion of the OR region could cause structural changes to the pre-OR region upon prion infection, leading to formation of a protease-resistant structure for the pre-OR region.
Yamaguchi, Y., Miyata, H., Uchiyama, K., Ootsuyama, A., Inubushi, S., Mori, T., … Sakaguchi, S. (2012). Biological and biochemical characterization of mice expressing prion protein devoid of the Octapeptide repeat region after infection with prions. PLoS ONE, 7(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0043540