Rapid antemortem tests to detect individuals with transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) would contribute to public health. We investigated a technique known as protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) to amplify abnormal prion protein (PrP(TSE)) from highly diluted variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD)-infected human and macaque brain homogenates, seeking to improve the rapid detection of PrP(TSE) in tissues and blood. Macaque vCJD PrP(TSE) did not amplify using normal macaque brain homogenate as substrate (intraspecies PMCA). Next, we tested interspecies PMCA with normal brain homogenate of the southern red-backed vole (RBV), a close relative of the bank vole, seeded with macaque vCJD PrP(TSE). The RBV has a natural polymorphism at residue 170 of the PrP-encoding gene (N/N, S/S, and S/N). We investigated the effect of this polymorphism on amplification of human and macaque vCJD PrP(TSE). Meadow vole brain (170N/N PrP genotype) was also included in the panel of substrates tested. Both humans and macaques have the same 170S/S PrP genotype. Macaque PrP(TSE) was best amplified with RBV 170S/S brain, although 170N/N and 170S/N were also competent substrates, while meadow vole brain was a poor substrate. In contrast, human PrP(TSE) demonstrated a striking narrow selectivity for PMCA substrate and was successfully amplified only with RBV 170S/S brain. These observations suggest that macaque PrP(TSE) was more permissive than human PrP(TSE) in selecting the competent RBV substrate. RBV 170S/S brain was used to assess the sensitivity of PMCA with PrP(TSE) from brains of humans and macaques with vCJD. PrP(TSE) signals were reproducibly detected by Western blot in dilutions through 10⁻¹² of vCJD-infected 10% brain homogenates. This is the first report showing PrP(TSE) from vCJD-infected human and macaque brains efficiently amplified with RBV brain as the substrate. Based on our estimates, PMCA showed a sensitivity that might be sufficient to detect PrP(TSE) in vCJD-infected human and macaque blood.
Nemecek, J., Nag, N., Carlson, C. M., Schneider, J. R., Heisey, D. M., Johnson, C. J., … Gregori, L. (2013). Red-Backed Vole Brain Promotes Highly Efficient In Vitro Amplification of Abnormal Prion Protein from Macaque and Human Brains Infected with Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Agent. PLoS ONE, 8(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0078710