Prion Efficiently Replicates in α-Synuclein Knockout Mice


Prion diseases are a group of neurodegenerative disorders associated with the conformational conversion of the cellular prion protein (PrPC) into an abnormal misfolded form named PrPSc. Other than accumulating in the brain, PrPSc can bind PrPC and force it to change conformation to PrPSc. The exact mechanism which underlies the process of PrPC/PrPSc conversion still needs to be defined and many molecules or cofactors might be involved. Several studies have documented an important role of PrPC to act as receptor for abnormally folded forms of α-synuclein which are responsible of a group of diseases known as synucleinopathies. The presence of PrPC was required to promote efficient internalization and spreading of abnormal α-synuclein between cells. In this work, we have assessed whether α-synuclein exerts any role in PrPSc conversion and propagation either in vitro or in vivo. Indeed, understanding the mechanism of PrPC/PrPSc conversion and the identification of cofactors involved in this process is crucial for developing new therapeutic strategies. Our results showed that PrPSc was able to efficiently propagate in the brain of animals even in the absence of α-synuclein thus suggesting that this protein did not act as key modulator of prion propagation. Thus, α-synuclein might take part in this process but is not specifically required for sustaining prion conversion and propagation.

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The authors wish to thank Associazione Italiana Encefalopatie da Prioni (AIEnP).


This work was supported by the Italian Ministry of Health (RC) to F.M., Italian Ministry of Health to F.T., and Associazione Italiana Encefalopatie da Prioni (AIEnP).

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E.B. performed most of the experiments; M.R., C.D.L., performed part of the biochemical analysis; F.C., O.C. performed part of the histological analysis; I.C. was in charge of the animal care and sacrifice; F.T. and G.L. contributed in planning the experiments and in analyzing the data; and G.G. and F.M. supervised the work, analyzed the data and prepared the final version of the manuscript. All the authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Fabio Moda.

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The study, including its Ethics aspects, was approved by the Italian Ministry of Health (Permit Number, NP-02-13).

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Bistaffa, E., Rossi, M., De Luca, C.M.G. et al. Prion Efficiently Replicates in α-Synuclein Knockout Mice. Mol Neurobiol 56, 7448–7457 (2019).

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  • Prions
  • RML
  • α-Synuclein
  • PMCA