PrPSc detection and infectivity in semen from scrapie-infected sheep

Richard Rubenstein, Marie S. Bulgin, Binggong Chang, Sharon Sorensen-Melson, Robert B. Petersen, Giuseppe LaFauci

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24 Scopus citations


A scrapie-positive ewe was found in a flock that had been scrapie-free for 13 years, but housed adjacent to scrapie-positive animals, separated by a wire fence. Live animal testing of the entire flock of 24 animals revealed seven more subclinical scrapie-positive ewes. We hypothesized that they may have contracted the disease from scrapie-positive rams used for breeding 4 months prior, possibly through the semen. The genotypes of the ewe flock were highly scrapiesusceptible and the rams were infected with the 'Caine' scrapie strain having a short incubation time of 4.3-14.6 months in sheep with 136/171 VQ/VQ and AQ/VQ genotypes. PrPSc accumulates in a variety of tissues in addition to the central nervous system. Although transmission of prion diseases, or transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, has been achieved via peripheral organ or tissue homogenates as well as by blood transfusion, neither infectivity nor PrPSc have been found in semen from scrapie-infected animals. Using serial protein misfolding cyclic amplification followed by a surround optical fibre immunoassay, we demonstrate that semen from rams infected with a short-incubation-time scrapie strain contains prion disease-associatedseeding activity that generated PrPSc in sPMCA (serial protein misfolding cyclic amplification). Injection of the ovinized transgenic mouse line TgSShpPrP with semen from scrapie-infected sheep resulted in PrPSc-seeding activity in clinical and, probably as a result of the low titre, nonclinical mouse brain. These results suggest that the transmissible agent, or at least the seeding activity, for sheep scrapie is present in semen. This may be a strain-specific phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1375-1383
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of General Virology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012


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