The agent of transmissible mink encephalopathy passaged in sheep is similar to BSE-L
Introduction: Transmissible mink encephalopathy (TME) is a fatal neurologic prion disease of farmed mink. Epidemiologic and experimental evidence following a Wisconsin outbreak in 1985 has linked TME to low-type bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE-L). Evidence suggests that farmed mink were likely exposed through feeding of BSE-L infected downer cattle. The interspecies transmission of TME to cattle has been documented. Recently, we demonstrated the susceptibility of sheep to cattle passaged TME by intracranial inoculation. The aim of the present study was to compare ovine passaged cattle TME to other prion diseases of food-producing animals. Using a bovine transgenic mouse model, we compared the disease phenotype of sheep TME to BSE-C and BSE-L. Materials and Methods: Separate inoculants of sheep passaged TME were derived from animals with the VRQ/VRQ (VV136) and ARQ/VRQ (AV136) prion protein genotype. Transgenic bovinized mice (TgBovXV) were intracranially inoculated with 20 µl of 1% w/v brain homogenate. The disease phenotypes were characterized by comparing the attack rates, incubation periods, and vacuolation profiles in TgBovXV mice. Results: The attack rate for BSE-C (13/13), BSE-L (18/18), and TMEVV (21/21) was 100%; whereas, the TMEAV group (15/19) had an incomplete attack rate. The average incubation periods were 299, 280, 310, and 541 days, respectively. The vacuolation profiles of BSE-L and TMEVV were most similar with mild differences observed in the thalamus and medulla. Vacuolation profiles from the BSE-C and TMEAV experimental groups were different than TMEVV and BSE-L. Conclusion: Overall the phenotype of disease in TME inoculated transgenic mice was dependent on the sheep donor genotype (VV vs AV). The results of the present study indicate that TME isolated from VRQ/VRQ sheep is similar to BSE-L with regards to incubation period, attack rate, and vacuolation profile. Our findings are in agreement with previous research that found phenotypic similarities between BSE-L and cattle passaged TME in an ovine transgenic rodent model. In this study, the similarities between ovine TME and BSE-L are maintained after multiple interspecies passages.