The genetics of scrapie in sheep and goats

M Baylis, W Goldmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scrapie, an invariably fatal disease of sheep and goats, is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The putative infectious agent is the host-encoded prion protein, PrP. The development of scrapie is closely linked to polymorphisms in the host PrP gene. The pathogenesis of most TSEs involves conversion of normal, cellular PrP into a protease-resistant, pathogenic isoform called PrPSc. The conversion to PrPSc involves change in secondary structure; it is impacts on these structural changes that may link polymorphisms to disease. Within the structured C-terminal part of PrP polymorphisms have been reported at 15 and 10 codons of the sheep and goat PrP genes respectively. Three polymorphisms in sheep are acutely linked to the occurrence of scrapie: A136V, R154H and Q171R/H. These generate five commonly observed alleles: ARQ, ARR, AHQ, ARH and VRQ. ARR and AHQ are associated with resistance; ARQ, ARH and VRQ are associated with susceptibility. There are subtle effects of specific allele pairings (genotypes). Generally, more susceptible genotypes have younger ages at death from scrapie. Different strains of scrapie occur which may attack genotypes differently. Different sheep breeds vary in the assortment of the five alleles that they predominantly encode. The reason for this variation is not known. Furthermore, certain genotypes may be susceptible to scrapie in some breeds and resistant in others. The explanation is not known, but may relate to different scrapie strains circulating in different breeds, or there may be effects of other genes which modulate the effect of PrP.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-96
Number of pages12
JournalCurrent molecular medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004


  • Age Factors
  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Goat Diseases
  • Goats
  • Great Britain
  • Models, Molecular
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Prions
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Risk Factors
  • Scrapie
  • Sheep


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