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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Animal Disease Center » Virus and Prion Research » Research » Research Project #432011

Research Project: Pathobiology, Genetics, and Detection of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies

Location: Virus and Prion Research

Project Number: 5030-32000-114-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Oct 1, 2016
End Date: Sep 30, 2021

Objective:
Objective 1: Investigate the mechanisms of protein misfolding in prion disease, including the genetic determinants of misfolding of the prion protein and the environmental influences on protein misfolding as it relates to prion diseases. Subobjective 1.A: Investigate the differences in the unfolded state of wild-type and disease associated prion proteins to better understand the mechanism of misfolding in genetic prion disease. Subobjective 1.B: Investigate the influence of metal ions on the misfolding of the prion protein in vitro to determine if environmental exposure to metal ions may alter disease progression. Objective 2: Investigate the pathobiology of prion strains in natural hosts, including the influence of prion source genotype on interspecies transmission and the pathobiology of atypical transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Subobjective 2.A: Investigate the pathobiology of atypical TSEs. Subobjective 2.B: Investigate the influence of prion source genotype on interspecies transmission. Objective 3: Investigate sampling methodologies for antemortem detection of prion disease, including the utility of blood sampling as a means to assess prion disease status of affected animals and the utility of environmental sampling for monitoring herd prion disease status. Subobjective 3.A: Investigate the utility of blood sampling as a means to assess prion disease status of affected animals. Subobjective 3.B: Investigate the utility of environmental sampling for monitoring herd prion disease status.

Approach:
The studies will focus on three animal transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) agents found in the United States: bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE); scrapie of sheep and goats; and chronic wasting disease (CWD) of deer, elk, and moose. The research will address sites of protein folding and misfolding as it relates to prion disease, accumulation of misfolded protein in the host, routes of infection, and ante mortem diagnostics with an emphasis on controlled conditions and natural routes of infection. Techniques used will include spectroscopic monitoring of protein folding/misfolding, clinical exams, histopathology, immunohistochemistry, and biochemical analysis of proteins. The enhanced knowledge gained from this work will help understand the underlying mechanisms of prion disease and mitigate the potential for unrecognized epidemic expansions of these diseases in populations of animals that could either directly or indirectly affect food animals.