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Stability of BSE infectivity towards heat treatment even after proteolytic removal of prion protein

The unconventional infectious agents of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are prions. Their infectivity co-appears with PrPSc, aberrant depositions of the host's cellular prion protein (PrPC). Successive heat treatment in the presence of detergent and proteolysis by a keratinase from Bacillus licheniformis PWD-1 was shown before to destroy PrPSc from bovine TSE (BSE) and sheep scrapie diseased brain, however data regarding expected reduction of infectivity were still lacking. Therefore, transgenic Tgbov XV mice which are highly BSE susceptible were used to quantify infectivity before and after the bovine brain treatment procedure. Also four immunochemical analyses were applied to compare the levels of PrPSc. After heating at 115 °C with or without subsequent proteolysis, the original BSE infectivity of 106.2-6.4 ID50 g-1 was reduced to a remaining infectivity of 104.6-5.7 ID50 g-1 while strain characteristics were unaltered, even after precipitation with methanol. Surprisingly, PrPSc depletion was 5-800 times higher than the loss of infectivity. Similar treatment was applied on other prion strains, which were CWD1 in bank voles, 263 K scrapie in hamsters and sheep PG127 scrapie in tg338 ovinized mice. In these strains however, infectivity was already destroyed by heat only. These findings show the unusual heat resistance of BSE and support a role for an additional factor in prion formation as suggested elsewhere when producing prions from PrPC. Leftover material in the remaining PrPSc depleted BSE preparation offers a unique substrate for searching additional elements for prion infectivity and improving our concept about the nature of prions.



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