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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Albany, California » Western Regional Research Center » Produce Safety and Microbiology Research » Research » Research Project #424354

Research Project: Immunodiagnostics to Detect Prions and Other Important Animal Pathogens

Location: Produce Safety and Microbiology Research

2017 Annual Report

1. Novel anti-prion monoclonal antibodies improve prion detection by immunoassay. A patent entitled “High-affinity Monoclonal Anti-prion Antibodies” developed by ARS scientists in Albany, California, was issued. These monoclonal antibodies bind unique epitopes in the prion protein that include the flexible N-terminus of globular prion PrP27-30 and the exposed helical 3/10 loop. The antibodies have demonstrated broad species specificity and application in the detection of infectious prions using diverse immunoassay formats. They are now commercially available and have been licensed to our partners for use in prion surveillance efforts.

2. Determination of sheep scrapie protein polymorphisms as metric of disease transmission. Genetically heterozygous sheep can propagate two kinds of scrapie prion protein. ARS scientists in Albany, California, in collaboration with veterinarians in Spain, developed a method to determine the relative amount of each prion protein polymorphism present in scrapie isolated from naturally infected sheep brain. Surprisingly, the more scrapie-resistant polymorphism predominated, suggesting that heterozygous sheep may facilitate the spread of scrapie to other heterozygous or homozygous sheep. This research will help us understand and limit the spread of scrapie in sheep populations.

3. Synthetic prions facilitate efforts to decipher infectious prion structure. The determination of prion structures is crucial to understating their pathobiology. Spanish scientists have developed an infectious synthetic prion. In collaboration with ARS scientists in Albany, California, they were able to determine that synthetic prion adopts a structure similar to that of wild-type animal-derived prions. The use of synthetic prions as a model will advance prion research as these proteins can be generated rapidly and at high purity. These efforts will help overcome the challenges associated with animal-derived prions that require many months to accumulate and extensive biochemical processing to achieve a level of purity.

Review Publications
Silva, C.J., Erickson-Beltran, M.L., Hui, C., Badiola, J.J., Nicholson, E.M., Requena, J.R., Bolea, R. 2016. Quantitating PrP polymorphisms present in prions from heterozygous scrapie-infected sheep. Analytical Chemistry. 89(1):854-861. doi:10.1021/acs.analchem.6b03822.