Caprine PrP variants harboring Asp-146, His-154 and Gln-211 alleles display reduced convertibility upon interaction with pathogenic murine prion protein in scrapie infected cells

Scrapie, the prion disease of sheep and goats, is a devastating malady of small ruminants. Due to its infectious nature, epidemic outbreaks may occur in flocks/herds consisting of highly susceptible animals. Field studies identified scrapie-protective caprine PrP variants, harboring specific single amino acid changes (Met-142, Arg-143, Asp-146, Ser-146, His-154, Gln-211 and Lys-222). Their effects are under further evaluation, and aim to determine the most protective allele. We assessed some of these variants (Asp-146, His-154, Gln-211 and Lys-222), after their exogenous expression as murine-caprine chimeras in a scrapie- infected murine cell line. We report that exogenously expressed PrPs undergo conformational conversion upon interaction with the endogenous pathological murine prion protein (PrPSC), which results in the detection of goat-specific and partially PK-resistant moieties. These moieties display a PK-resistance pattern distinct from the one detected in natural goat scrapie cases. Within this cellular model, distinct conformational conversion potentials were assigned to the tested variants. Molecules carrying the Asp-146, His-154 and Gln-211 alleles showed significantly lower conversion levels compared to wild type, confirming their protective effects against scrapie. Although we utilized a heterologous conversion system, this is to our knowledge, the first study of caprine PrP variants in a cellular context of scrapie, that confirms the protective effects of some of the studied alleles.