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Deciphering the BSE-type specific cell and tissue tropisms of atypical (H and L) and classical BSE

After the discovery of two atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) forms in France and Italy designated H- and L-BSE, the question arose whether these new forms differed from classical BSE (C-BSE) in their pathogenesis. Samples collected from cattle in the clinical stage of BSE during an intracranial challenge study with L- and H-BSE were analysed using biochemical and histological methods as well as in a transgenic mouse bioassay. Our results generally confirmed what had been described for C-BSE to be true also for both atypical BSE forms, namely the restriction of the pathological prion protein (PrPSc) and BSE infectivity to the nervous system. However, analysis of samples collected under identical conditions from both atypical H- and L-BSE forms allowed us a more precise assessment of the grade of involvement of different tissues during the clinical end stage of disease as compared to C-BSE. One important feature is the involvement of the peripheral nervous and musculoskeletal tissues in both L-BSE and H-BSE affected cattle. We were, however, able to show that in H-BSE cases, the PrPSc depositions in the central and peripheral nervous system are dominated by a glial pattern, whereas a neuronal deposition pattern dominates in L-BSE cases, indicating differences in the cellular and topical tropism of both atypical BSE forms. As a consequence of this cell tropism, H-BSE seems to spread more rapidly from the CNS into the periphery via the glial cell system such as Schwann cells, as opposed to L-BSE which is mostly propagated via neuronal cells.



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