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Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or prion diseases, are fatal neurodegenerative diseases affecting humans and animals. Although many host tissues express PrPC (essential for prion replication), relatively few cell types accumulate significant levels of infectivity, including neurons and other cell types in the nervous system, and follicular dendritic cells in secondary lymphoid organs. This suggests that tissue or cell-specific receptors or cofactors could play a role in controlling differential susceptibility to infection. Endogenous retroviruses (ERV), the remnants of ancient retroviral integration into the host germline, may represent one such cofactor. We examined the effect of crapie infection on expression of three ovine ERV families (enJSRV/1-OERV, 1-OERV, 2-OERV) in secondary lymphoid tissues of sheep at different time points following subcutaneous inoculation, using RT-qPCR. These OERVs were constitutively expressed in the prescapular lymph node and spleen of uninfected sheep. However, we were unable to find convincing evidence of specific differential expression of OERV in the same tissues following scrapie infection, in contrast to previous studies of ERV expression in brains of prion-infected mice and macaques. This study is the first to quantify the expression of potentially functional OERV transcripts in sheep lymphoid tissues, opening up interesting questions about the consequences for host immune function.
- Endogenous retrovirus