Tumor necrosis factor alpha-deficient, but not interleukin-6-deficient, mice resist peripheral infection with scrapie

Neil Mabbott, Alun Williams, Christine Farquhar, Manolis Pasparakis, Giorgos Kollias, Moira Bruce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In most peripheral infections of rodents and sheep with scrapie, infectivity is found first in lymphoid tissues and later in the central nervous system (CNS). Cells within the germinal centers (GCs) of the spleen and lymph nodes are important sites of extraneural replication, from which infection is likely to spread to the CNS along peripheral nerves. Here, using immunodeficient mice, we investigate the identity of the cells in the spleen that are important for disease propagation. Despite possessing functional T and B lymphocytes, tumor necrosis factor alpha-deficient (TNF-alpha(-/-)) mice lack GCs and follicular dendritic cell (FDC) networks in lymphoid tissues. In contrast, lymphoid tissues of interleukin-6-deficient (IL-6(-/-)) mice possess FDC networks but have impaired GCs. When the CNSs of TNF-alpha(-/-), IL-6(-/-), and wild-type mice were directly challenged with the ME7 scrapie strain, 100% of the mice were susceptible, developing disease after closely similar incubation periods. However, when challenged peripherally (intraperitoneally), most TNF-alpha(-/-) mice failed to develop scrapie up to 503 days postinjection. All wild-type and IL-6(-/-) mice succumbed to disease approximately 300 days after the peripheral challenge. High levels of scrapie infection and the disease-specific isomer of the prion protein, PrP(Sc), were detectable in spleens from challenged wild-type and IL-6(-/-) mice but not from TNF-alpha(-/-) mice. Histopathological analysis of spleen tissue demonstrated heavy PrP accumulations in direct association with FDCs in challenged wild-type and IL-6(-/-) mice. No PrP(Sc) accumulation was detected in spleens from TNF-alpha(-/-) mice. We conclude that, for the ME7 scrapie strain, mature FDCs are critical for replication in lymphoid tissues and that in their absence, neuroinvasion following peripheral challenge is impaired.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3338-44
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2000


  • Animals
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Interleukin-6/genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • PrPSc Proteins/metabolism
  • PrPSc Proteins/pathogenicity
  • Scrapie/genetics
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha/genetics


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