The Gut-Associated Lymphoid Tissues in the Small Intestine, Not the Large Intestine, Play a Major Role in Oral Prion Disease Pathogenesis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Authors:
  • DS Donaldson
  • KJ Else
  • NA Mabbott

Abstract

Prion diseases are infectious neurodegenerative disorders characterized by accumulations of abnormally folded cellular prion protein in affected tissues. Many natural prion diseases are acquired orally, and following exposure, the early replication of some prion isolates upon follicular dendritic cells (FDC) within gut-associated lymphoid tissues (GALT) is important for the efficient spread of disease to the brain (neuroinvasion). Prion detection within large intestinal GALT biopsy specimens has been used to estimate human and animal disease prevalence. However, the relative contributions of the small and large intestinal GALT to oral prion pathogenesis were unknown. To address this issue, we created mice that specifically lacked FDC-containing GALT only in the small intestine. Our data show that oral prion disease susceptibility was dramatically reduced in mice lacking small intestinal GALT. Although these mice had FDC-containing GALT throughout their large intestines, these tissues were not early sites of prion accumulation or neuroinvasion. We also determined whether pathology specifically within the large intestine might influence prion pathogenesis. Congruent infection with the nematode parasite Trichuris muris in the large intestine around the time of oral prion exposure did not affect disease pathogenesis. Together, these data demonstrate that the small intestinal GALT are the major early sites of prion accumulation and neuroinvasion after oral exposure. This has important implications for our understanding of the factors that influence the risk of infection and the preclinical diagnosis of disease. IMPORTANCE: Many natural prion diseases are acquired orally. After exposure, the accumulation of some prion diseases in the gut-associated lymphoid tissues (GALT) is important for efficient spread of disease to the brain. However, the relative contributions of GALT in the small and large intestines to oral prion pathogenesis were unknown. We show that the small intestinal GALT are the essential early sites of prion accumulation. Furthermore, congruent infection with a large intestinal helminth (worm) around the time of oral prion exposure did not affect disease pathogenesis. This is important for our understanding of the factors that influence the risk of prion infection and the preclinical diagnosis of disease. The detection of prions within large intestinal GALT biopsy specimens has been used to estimate human and animal disease prevalence. However, our data suggest that using these biopsy specimens may miss individuals in the early stages of oral prion infection and significantly underestimate the disease prevalence.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9532-9547
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of virology
Volume89
Issue number18
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2015

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