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Distribution of misfolded prion protein seeding activity alone does not predict regions of neurodegeneration

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Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1002579
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number11
Early online date23 Nov 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Nov 2016


Protein misfolding is common across many neurodegenerative diseases, with misfolded proteins acting as seeds for "prion-like" conversion of normally folded protein to abnormal conformations. A central hypothesis is that misfolded protein accumulation, spread and distribution is restricted to specific neuronal populations of the central nervous system and thus predict regions of neurodegeneration. We examined this hypothesis using a highly sensitive assay system for detection of misfolded protein seeds in a murine model of prion disease. Misfolded prion protein seeds were observed widespread throughout the brain accumulating in all brain regions examined irrespective of neurodegeneration. Importantly neither time of exposure nor amount of misfolded protein seeds present determined regions of neurodegeneration. We further demonstrate two distinct microglia responses in prion infected brains, a novel homeostatic response in all regions and an innate immune response restricted to sites of neurodegeneration. Therefore accumulation of misfolded prion protein alone does not define targeting of neurodegeneration which instead results only when misfolded prion protein accompanies a specific innate immune response.

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