Species barriers in prion diseases — brief review

  • R. -A. Moore
  • I. Vorberg
  • S. -A. Priola1


Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs or prion diseases) are neurological disorders associated with the aggregation of a pathologic isoform of a host-encoded protein, termed prion protein (PrP). The pathologic isoform of PrP, termed PrPSc, is a major constituent of the infectious agent. TSE diseases are characterized by neurodegenerative failure and inevitable morbidity. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) has been transmitted from cattle to humans to cause a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob syndrome. The potential for chronic wasting disease to similarly cross the species barrier from cervids to humans is considered unlikely but possible. Thus, understanding how TSE agents overcome resistance to transmission between species is crucial if we are to prevent future epidemics. The species barrier usually can be abrogated to varying degrees in laboratory animals. Studies done with transgenic animals, tissue culture, and cell-free assays established PrP as being necessary for TSE pathogenesis and illustrated that certain amino acid residues are more influential than others for conferring resistance to TSE agent transmission. The essence of what constitutes a TSE agent’s species compatibility is thought to be orchestrated by a complex interplay of contributions from its primary amino acid sequence, its glycoform patterns, and its three-dimensional structure.


Prion Protein Prion Disease Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Primary Amino Acid Sequence Chronic Wasting Disease 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag/Wien 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. -A. Moore
    • 1
  • I. Vorberg
    • 2
  • S. -A. Priola1
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Persistent Viral Diseases, Rocky Mountain LaboratoriesNational Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of HealthHamiltonUSA
  2. 2.Institute of VirologyTechnical University of MunichMunichGermany

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