In utero transmission and tissue distribution of chronic wasting disease-associated prions in free-ranging Rocky Mountain elk

Anca Selariu, Jenny G Powers, Amy Nalls, Monica Brandhuber, Amber Mayfield, Stephanie Fullaway, Christy A Wyckoff, Wilfred Goldmann, Mark M Zabel, Margaret A Wild, Edward A Hoover, Candace K Mathiason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The presence of disease-associated prions in tissues and bodily fluids of chronic wasting disease (CWD)-infected cervids has received much investigation, yet little is known about mother to offspring transmission of CWD. Our previous work demonstrated that mother to offspring transmission is efficient in an experimental setting. To address the question of relevance in a naturally-exposed free-ranging population, we have assessed maternal and fetal tissues derived from 19 elk dam-calf pairs collected from free-ranging Rocky Mountain elk from Northcentral Colorado, a known CWD endemic region. Conventional immunohistochemistry (IHC) identified 3/19 CWD positive dams, whereas a more sensitive assay - the serial protein misfolding cyclic amplification (sPMCA) - detected CWD prion seeding activity (PrPCWD) in 15/19 dams. PrPCWD distribution in tissues was widespread and included the central nervous system (CNS), lymphoreticular system (LRS), reproductive, secretory, excretory and adipose tissues. Interestingly, five of fifteen sPMCA positive dams showed no evidence of PrPCWD in either CNS or LRS, sites typically assessed in diagnosing CWD. Analysis of fetal tissues harvested from the fifteen sPMCA positive dams revealed PrPCWD in 80% of fetuses (12/15), regardless of gestational stage. These findings demonstrate that PrPCWD is more abundant in peripheral tissues of CWD exposed elk than current diagnostic methods suggest, and that transmission of prions from mother to offspring may contribute to the efficient transmission of the CWD in naturally exposed cervid populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3444-3455
JournalJournal of General Virology
Volume96
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sep 2015

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