Susceptibility to prion diseases is largely determined by the sequence of the prion protein gene (PRNP), which encodes the prion protein (PrP). The recent emergence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Europe has highlighted the need to investigate PRNP gene diversity in European deer species, to better predict their susceptibility to CWD. Here we report a large genetic survey of six British deer species, including red (Cervus elaphus), sika (Cervus nippon), roe (Capreolus capreolus), fallow (Dama dama), muntjac (Muntiacus reevesii), and Chinese water deer (Hydropotes inermis), which establishes PRNP haplotype and genotype frequencies. Two smaller data sets from red deer in Norway and the Czech Republic are also included for comparison. Overall, red deer show the most PRNP variation, with non-synonymous/coding polymorphisms at codons 98, 168, 226 and 247, which vary markedly in frequency between different regions. Polymorphisms P168S and I247L were only found in Scottish and Czech populations, respectively. T98A was found in all populations except Norway and the south of England. Significant regional differences in genotype frequencies were observed within both British and European red deer populations. Other deer species showed less variation, particularly roe and fallow deer, in which identical PRNP gene sequences were found in all individuals analysed. Based on comparison with PRNP sequences of North American cervids affected by CWD and limited experimental challenge data, these results suggest that a high proportion of wild deer in Great Britain may be susceptible to CWD.
- chronic wasting disease
- transmissable spongiform encephalopathy
- genetic variation